My husband, Mr. Rizzuto, is a biology teacher. Specifically he teaches botany to middle-school kids. He is also an avid photographer. This means that he spends a great deal of time growing things, thinking about growing things, talking about growing things, taking pictures of the things he wants to grow and schlepping the family along behind him on his wildlife outings.Mr. Rizzuto’s passion at the moment is mushrooms. He even has a mushroom field guide, which is essential. Apparently there are several mushrooms species out there that are not only poisonous but look a lot like perfectly innocent, edible mushrooms.“You better hope I never decide to kill you,” I tell him sometimes. “I know just how I’ll do it too. I’ll pull the old switcheroo with the poisonous mushrooms and tell them I made a horrible mistake. Now change the baby.”Mr. Rizzuto’s goal in life is to get a booth at a local farmer’s market and sell pricey mushrooms to yuppies.“Do you have any idea how much hen-of-the-woods mushrooms are going for these days?” he asks. I don’t even know what a hen-of-the-woods mushroom is. But being the dutiful wife I bite my tongue and mosey on over to the high-end grocery store to price them. He’s right of course. Yuppies spend upwards of $30 for a pound of fungus. They come in strange colors and shapes and have weird names. Some of them you can’t even get unless you have a highly educated pig to sniff them out for you.
Today it was unseasonably warm out. Mr. Rizzuto wanted to take full advantage. “It’s nice out,” he said. “Let’s go take some pictures.”
This was not good news for me. While I support Mr. Rizzuto in his scientific and artistic adventures, being his assistant is not all it’s cracked up to be. It usually involves Mr. Rizzuto walking through the woods mumbling Latin names to himself while I follow behind with an increasingly heavy baby strapped to my back. All the while I have to entertain my complaining 8-year-old who wants nothing more than to be locked in his room with his Game Cube and 60 pounds of Halloween candy. Once I had to jump up and down on a log so Mr. Rizzuto could get a picture of spores floating out of a puffball mushroom. I don’t complain though. After all, the mushroom business could be very lucrative and I have to pay for college for two kids. And possibly a pig.
This morning we struck gold. We found puffball mushrooms, shelf mushrooms and, joy of joys, oyster mushrooms.
“Look at that!” Mr. Rizzuto exclaimed. He spotted a big bunch of oysters. Attached to a 60 foot tree.
“How are you going to get them down?” Dante asked. “I wanna go home. I didn’t want to come here anyway. I’m missing Pokemon.”
“Waaaaahhhhhhh!” said Janey.
“Honey, the baby’s getting tired of this. She’s heavy. I’m sending Dante to find a switch that I can beat him with, and I think I just saw the Blair Witch. Can we go?”
“OK, just let me climb the tree. It’ll only be a few more minutes.”
An hour later we were back in the car.
“Oyster mushrooms, Wanda. Can you believe it? We’re going to have oyster mushrooms. You can cook them, right?”
After much debate, research and some internet surfing I decided to just toss them into my smothered chicken. Luckily, according to Wikipedia oyster mushrooms are often eaten because they don’t have a poisonous counterpart. But just in case, as we always do when mushroom tasting, we kept one in the fridge. That one is for the coroner to identify.
“If these mushrooms are poisonous I’ll bleeping kill you,” I tell Mr. Rizzuto
“Does Dante know what to do if we get sick?”
“Dante! You know what to do if there’s an emergency, right?”
“Yes,” he says. “Call 911.”
“Good,” I tell him.
“Don’t forget to put the dogs under the stairs,” Mr. Rizzuto adds. Excellent point. If the dogs are allowed to roam free the paramedics will need paramedics.
“Well honey, being married to you is never dull, “ I say.
“Really? Well, look on the bright side. If nothing else you’ll have something to write about.”
“I’ve already got it right here,” I tell him, tapping my head. “But if these mushrooms are poisonous, I’ll bleeping kill you.”
With that he gives me a sideways smile.
“You won’t have to.”