“Mushroom picking is my own yoga”

A part of my heart has always been in Touraine: my family has owned a country house there since the interwar period. It is a large house in the middle of the woods, in Bel-Air, near Langeais (Indre-et-Loire). I spent my childhood there, my weekends, my holidays. I grew up in a bourgeois Parisian family, with two lawyer parents, and this place in nature was life-saving, my breath of fresh air and greenery, we went there all the time. I am the eldest of five children, I have three brothers and a sister, and my parents let me go to Bel-Air alone when I was very young. I have memories of taking the train when I was 12, you had to change at Tours to go to Langeais.

“It’s not normal for me to buy mushrooms, even though I sometimes have to. »

The neighbors, who were keeping our dog, came to get me. A little older, I hitchhiked to get there. I loved being alone there with the dog, I was crossed by very powerful emotions. Sometimes I kept myself from sleeping so that I could go for a walk at dawn and meet the animals in the forest. It was wonderful. I may have only done this two or three times in my life, but I remember it as if it had been my entire childhood. Even as a teenager, I found simple pleasures there: jumping in puddles, throwing pebbles, nibbling on blackberries and, above all, picking up mushrooms.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been to mushrooms. When you took this fold very young, it’s a bit like being part of a sect, you have your habits and your secret corners that you don’t reveal to anyone. In autumn, you can’t count on me on the weekends, because I take my knife, my bag, and I go into the forest. This is the activity that I like to do above all, both contemplative, meditative and physical. All the senses are awakened, it feels good. Mushroom picking is my yoga.

I also learned food with mushrooms. The pleasure of picking, choosing, preparing, the direct link to the earth and nature, the miraculous gifts of it… It’s not normal for me to buy mushrooms, even if I’m there sometimes forced. It was so important that my daughters eat and enjoy this food that I created this recipe for them, something ultra-gourmet. It is a sandwich inspired by a Swedish recipe.

Read also: Cheese and mushroom toast: Victor Coutard’s recipe

When I lived in Sweden, I went every day to Kaffe, to have an espresso with a kanterel sandwich, sandwich bread topped with chanterelles and melted cheese, I loved it. I added guanciale (pork belly), you can also add a little parsley, as long as the children like it. It has to crunch and melt at the same time. It was one of my daughters who baptized it “croc-croc”. You can put in all the mushrooms you want, depending on the season: chanterelles and chanterelles, of course, small ceps, oyster mushrooms, portobellos, sheep’s feet… As long as they are freshly picked. To me, it’s just irresistible.

Mushrooms are not rocket scienceby Victor Coutard, Marabout, 192 p., €22.90.

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