When we first came to live in these parts my French vocab was a bit limited. In addition to "pain" and "vin", another word I knew was "champignon" and I remember being amazed at how many times, when earwigging in the supermarket queue or in the bar, this one word would keep cropping up. It seemed to me that everyone was talking about mushrooms, pretty much all the time. Of course in those days, saying the word mushroom to me had me thinking 'small white buttony things in a blue barquette from Sainsbury's. I had flirted with chanterelles and shiitakes....but they were very much on the periforal edge of my culinary vision, I had no idea then that mushrooms were something of a regional, if not national, obsession, their arrival even making front page news in the local paper! http://www.sudouest.fr/2013/09/25/les-cepes-arrivent-sur-les-marches-de-dordogne-1179817-1814.php.
After a couple of years though, I started to think that there must be something in it and decided to go forth into the woods with my trusty guide book. Soon I became a convert and spent many happy hours fruitlessly foraging in the forest.
Now, the season is upon us once again and the woods are thronging with all kinds of fungi and foragers. In the normal way of things, seeing a man shuffling about on his own in the woods would activate my Weirdo Alert, but I'm now quite used to coming across them. For sure, he might give me a funny look, but that'll be because
A: I might be nicking mushrooms on his turf, or
B: He is nicking mushooms on my turf, or
C: He was just born looking funny.
Skip the Dog, who's Weirdo Alert is more finely tuned up than mine, will often spot someone ahead of me and he'll let off a warning salvo of his most fearsome barks. But the fungi hunters will barely raise their heads, such is their obsession.