I love how a collection of words strung together in a certain order can paint such a vivid picture and stir such strong emotions. Mushroom picking in the Swedish countryside…..to me those six words are full of romanticism; trees twisted and gnarled, like something from a fairytale, spongy moss underfoot, grazing Elk, wild flowers and the chorus of birdsong. So it was that we packed the car and drove an hour north-west of Stockholm to a wee island called Adelsö where we cooked and baked and consumed copious amounts of beautiful food and of course, wandered through pine forests in search of golden Chantarelle and dark grey Trompette de la mort mushrooms.
Sunday morning came and we packed picnic hampers filled with hot coffee and cakes, pulled on thick socks and gumboots and grabbed baskets and mushroom knives and set off into the forest under a fine mist of rain. Autumn leaves rustled underfoot and it wasn’t long before a plethora of fungi of all shapes, sizes and colours began to pepper the forest floor. The mushrooms for which we were searching required a certain measure of skill and patience to pick out under the cover of pine needles and leaves. In contrast however toxic fungi, or toadstools, seemed to spring up at every step and were so beautiful and varied that we began to collect them too in order to study their spotted red caps, their spongy stems and their frilled underbellies.
After several hours our baskets were full of golden Chantarlle and dark charcoal Trompette de la mort mushrooms and so we set off home, our thoughts turned to the creamy mushroom risotto which would soon be cooking for the evening meal.
I had no preconceptions about Stockholm, about how it would look, about the nature of its people, the clothes that they might wear or the food that they might eat. And I liked it that way. It meant I discovered a new city with fresh eyes. I learnt about Swedish food, culture and design, I walked the city streets, I met so many kind people eager to share their lives and I spent time with old friends whose generosity and warmth made my 6 fleeting days in Stockholm more special and memorable than I could ever have anticipated.