A mushroom walks into a bar…

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Mushrooms… the season for fungi is here.

Wine writer RICHARD CALVER shares some funny sides of fungi and the mixed results of using red and white wine when cooking mushrooms.

A MUSHROOM walks into a bar and sees algae on a bar stool. He approaches the stool and says: “You’re looking all gal to me”. She looks him over and says: “And you look like a fun guy.” Obviously, they took a lichen to each other.

Richard Calver.

In isolation, we have taken to eating more mushrooms, not the magic ones that my groaner joke might have inspired but lovely brown mushrooms that are full of flavour.  

It seems the season for fungi is here, expressed both in store and in the wider world. For example, there are signs posted around Lake Burley Griffin warning people not to pick the mushrooms as there have been death cap mushrooms detected on the surrounding lawns and, well, the risk is that the freshly picked product would shrivel your liver and they would live up to the name. 

The ABC website tells me: “The deadly death cap mushroom grows across the country, but is most prevalent in Canberra, where it grows under oak trees imported from Europe.”

So, no shrooming for us but instead purchases of the product from the supermarket. In the last few weeks, I have made mushroom risotto where a light chardonnay was added to the arborio rice as a flavour boost.  

This was only partially successful: the wine was a 2015 Tarrawarra Estate chardonnay from the Yarra Valley. It was subdued, very light in colour and with a finish more reflective of riesling than of traditional chardonnay buttery or oaky depth. While pleasant, by being anodyne, it was not a wine I’d stock up on; this bottle having been provided by a wine club that I no longer subscribe to and I prefer fuller-flavoured chardonnays.  

I have also made brown mushrooms cooked in red wine with a small amount of chilli. This was an accompaniment to steak. To this mix, I added a splash of Circe Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2018, which I had purchased from the Qantas Wine Club following a telephone pitch from one of their sales people. It is $27.50 a bottle and is light but expressive with a splendid raspberry flavour and a hint of spice. It is drinking well now and is a truly autumnal wine with enough depth to satisfy but light and clean. 

The focus on this fungal food also meant I could tell my son, who has been sheltered from my dad jokes while overseas, my extended mushroom joke on the suitably clockwise walk, bridge-to-bridge at Lake Burley Griffin: nothing like a captive audience.

A police detective is interviewing Mrs Smith about the death of her third husband. The officer asks Mrs Smith: “Is it true, Mrs Smith, that your first husband died of mushroom poisoning?”

“Yes, it was tragic.”

“And Mrs Smith, is it also true that he left you this house on his passing?”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“Mrs Smith, did your second husband also die of mushroom poisoning?”

“Yes, another tragedy, we were mushrooming together and we must have picked some death caps amongst the forest harvest. 

“And Mrs Smith is it also true that your second husband left you his vintage Rolls Royce that is now parked in your driveway?” 

“Yes, that’s true.”

“So, Mrs Smith could you please explain to me, remembering you are under caution, how your third husband came to die from a head injury.”  

“Well, detective, it’s quite simple. He wouldn’t eat his mushrooms.” 


Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not. –Vaclav Havel




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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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