My season is summer. Others like spring or autumn or winter, but it’s summer that works for me. I love the heat, the pulsing cicadas, the still air, being outside from dawn till late. I adore the fact that it’s hot all night and in the morning you can hop out of bed, sling on a cotton dress and be outside in a moment.
But sometimes you can also have a perfect day in autumn. Today I was lucky enough to have a pretty perfect autumn day.
I woke up late. I live in the south of France, which is a beautiful region. I checked outside. It was sunny and warm. So I grabbed the picnic I’d made up last night, slung on some jeans, grabbed a light jacket, the gloves I use for picking olives, and a knife, and jumped in the car.
Ten minutes away I met the friends I’d arranged to go looking for mushrooms with and we piled into a single car and set off for the eastern side of Mont Ventoux. We went to a pretty French village, St Trinit, where they hold a mushroom festival every year on the second Sunday of October (10th October this year) (2010) (ie. tomorrow) and started searching the nearby countryside for mushrooms.
Wondering cheerfully uphill through the forest we found faux girolles, several cepes, lactaires delicieux, clitocybes nebuleux, grisés and one of the best edible mushrooms you can find – a beautiful, large, golden amanite des cesars.
Around one o’clock we stopped and had our picnic. Paté made with mushrooms collected on the same mountainside. Fresh goats’ cheese. Bread from my local baker. Red wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Salad with a dressing made from our own olive oil. Cured ham we’d brought back from a holiday in Corsica, visiting friends. Hot coffee from a super-insulated American flask.
We chatted about mycology, evolution, judaism, islam, holidays, mushroom festivals and laughed a lot. And then we took to the hills again and filled our straw baskets with these beautiful mushrooms that appear overnight and will always either be eaten by the wild boar that roam these hills, collected by locals or quietly fade and rot undiscovered.
As we spread out, calling out to one another periodically to avoid getting lost, I saw a young deer leap out of a thicket and bound off across a clearing. Happily, she was heading directly away from the gunshot of hunters that could be heard from lower down the hill. I was in a pool of sunshine in a beautiful forest, with friends not far away, watching a beautiful wild animal, collecting delicious food I would clean, cook and eat with the others hours later. The sun was warm on my face and I was suddenly very aware that this was a perfect autumn day. About as perfect as you can get.
After we went back to one of the guys’ houses, cleaned the mushrooms, cooked a huge meal and drank some more good red wine, I came home. As I arrived at my house, on a little chemin de terre – an unmade-up forest path – there was a wild boar standing to one side. He turned casually to stare into the headlights which I immediately dimmed. He was about thigh-high, solid, but not broad. A real forest animal. He took a look at me for a moment or two and then slowly sauntered off into the undergrowth.
I walked into the house and my beautiful affectionate cat, Coco, greeted me with his clear blue eyes and his tail high.
Tomorrow a bunch of us are going to the mushroom festival at St Trinit. With a bit of luck it may be another perfect autumn day, like today.