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Nibbling on mushrooms

Nibbling on mushrooms

“I’ve walked on these mountains countless times. I’ve been doing that since I was a child; whenever my mother got me to lead the herd, I was looking for mushrooms, that’s what I was fixated on all winter long. You think we could eat anything we’d wish for back then? I wish we’d have anything we wanted, but we just had whatever we could put our hands on” said laughing. “Now I can come by more things I can eat, but I never managed to get the better of this little foible of mine. Even if I don’t actually get to eat them, I feel like going out there and looking for them among mulberries, broom shrubs and savories, it actually feels like hitting the lottery.”

Sioros is seemingly around seventy-five; I always recall him going on about partridges, rabbits, woodcocks, mushrooms and untracked mountain peaks. So, opting to get genuinely involved rather than hear tell of those stories, I followed him. When we began climbing up the mountain, I thought I was being led by a hiker in his early twenties –watching him sliding through dense foliage and shinning up rubble walls, with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth. “This plot used to belong to old man Kontolios, you should’ve been around back in the day to see it, there were all sorts of fruit trees in it, now it’s just a mound, but all the neighboring plots were nice and plowed back then.”

We were almost there when he began to shout: “This little flatland over there is full of mushrooms, lined up in slabs”. As for me, I thought he had stumbled on an ancient shrine or something, but what he actually was trying to say was that the mushrooms he was coming across were broad and wide like slabs! I had truly never seen mushrooms like these in my life: misshapen, rock-solid and fresh. Forcing their way out of the rocks, they looked like they were integrated in them! “Let’s keep going, a lot of them spring up on those boxwood rows”. Every little spot he took me to, he would get it right, he knew every nook and cranny on that mountain like the back of his hand. We filled up our buckets, but I couldn’t help carrying on. “All right, that’s enough, we’ve got plenty of snacks now, leave a bite for the poor goats. The wind eases off behind that wall; let’s go there and have a cigarette” he said, before we parked ourselves on a couple of armchair-like rocks.

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“These are the mushrooms found among savories, broom shrubs, maloupa and atzitharos. You saw them? Stiff, fresh and fragrant. You can also pick up some others among the pine trees, but I wouldn’t take them even if they were for free, they taste like hay. So, eat these ones and you’ll see, they’re so mind-blowingly tasty you can forget about liver. Now that you know your way up here, you can come over anytime you feel like, pluck your little tidbits and then just walk away. Don’t you show up with a retinue and start trampling on everything up here. Grab your bite, share these morsels with your friends to go with your wine, and that would be it. No doubt, mountains and bushes could do with some respect too”.

Translated into English by Nikos Loutraris

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