"Alors, t'es allé aux champignons?"
With autumn here and the mushroom season in full swing this seems to be the opening gambit in any conversation with our neighbours (they know better than to ask si je suis allé à la chasse). And the invariable answer is "Non". I'm a city boy at heart and the idea of spending half the day scrambling up hills, ducking under low branches and generally getting hot and sweaty looking for fungi does not appeal. It's not engrained in me, unlike my wife, a country girl who can't pass a bramble, wild raspberry, wild strawberry or a host of bilberry bushes without feeling the urge to pick them.
In any case, why would I bother when they appear in our conservatory without any effort on our part!
And that's just a small sample!
These mysterious appearances usually follow a phone call from one of the neighbour's wives. Would Yolande like a few mushrooms, they ask. Well, yes. We'd love some. The "few" mushrooms turn out to be a supermarket carrier-bag, a bucket or a tray loaded to the gills with cèpes, mousserons, girolles or rosées des prés. Never morilles, mind you. Morilles are still a closely guarded secret et ça ne se dit pas!
The problem is that these poor wives are afflicted with husbands who can't pass by a mushroom without picking it, and another, and another ... So after a while they are heartily sick of cleaning, freezing, drying or preserving mushrooms and never want to see another one. So they call Yolande knowing full well that there's no way I will have been out in the woods fungi-hunting.
Our nearest neighbour's wife is doubly afflicted. He is a gardening fanatic and produces enough vegetables to feed the village as well as a constant supply of mushrooms. So recently we have been begged to take "a few" green beans off her hands. She literally has no more space for another preserving jar and in any case they still haven't finished last year's crop! No doubt we shall see him shortly wheeling his barrow up the drive bearing large potirons because his wife has told him enough is enough.
And it would be wicked to let them go to waste, now wouldn't it.