Even though this was the seventh annual festival for celebrating the morel mushroom
and, and as in previous years there was a programme for the entire three days,
the great thing about such an event is that there is always a possibility of something
This year the streets were overflowing, which wasn’t surprising.
It seemed like the whole of Fethiye had descended on Yeşilüzümlü,
to enjoy the spring weather and of course, search for the best deal on
a kilo of delicious morels.
Morels are a speciality in this part of the world and usually readily
available at this time of year, if the weather is right.
Local mushroom hunters offer them for sale, at prices guaranteed to make
mycophagists in other countries turn green with envy.
There were musicians playing and also many stalls selling all sorts of
hand made bric-a-brac, dastar (local woven cloth), homemade food
and other goodies.
Whole streets taken over by tables and chairs, many filled with
people eating morel-based delights, cooked and served up by the local families.
Yes, it was a perfect time for mycophagists to descend on Yeşilüzümlü
and they were there in abundance.
It seemed like a good opportunity to sit down for tea and a chat with Dubliner, Bill O’Dea.
Bill is, by his own admission, a ‘dedicated mycophagist’.
Ok, if you haven’t guessed, a mycophagist is someone who likes to
gather and eat mushrooms.
The mysterious world of fungi
This is the third year he and Daniel Butler, who describes himself more simply, as a
‘fungi expert’ from Wales, have come to Yeşilüzümlü for the festival.
On the first day of the festival Bill gave a talk called:
Exploring the third kingdom – the fascinating world of fungi.
Morel soup by the gallon
They also participated in large scale morel soup production,
but as the only men in a traditionally female activity,
they weren’t actively encouraged to join in.
As Bill said, much of his time in Üzümlü is about watching and learning.
Their assignment for early Saturday evening was to join a panel of
gastronomes from Fethiye’s Chef Mavi, the professional chefs’ association.
Their task was to sample their way through different dishes prepared by
local women (Why were there no men you may ask?).
The rest of the experts were there, (all men) decked out in their chefs’ finery,
decorated with more medals that a war veteran.
Meanwhile, culinary delights were being prepared.
Last minute cosmetic touches; a sprig of parsley here, a slice of lemon there,
panics over plating up and presentation… an Anatolian Masterchef,
taking place just centimetres behind the judges table.
Only a pane of glass separated them and the tension was clear and palpable
to the spectators.
On the other hand, Bill and Daniel were nervous too, concerned that
they wouldn’t know what the competitors’ dishes were supposed to taste like,
but were reassured by another judge that “It will either taste good or it wont”.
Let the tasting begin…
One by one the plates of food were placed in front of the first judge,
who having carefully examined the food on the plate,
stood up with the plate in his hand to describe the creation to the
expectant crowd before passing along to his colleague,
who did likewise. And so on…
As the competition progressed the crowd of onlookers became more
and more hungry.
Slowly, imperceptibly they edged towards the judges table, eyes focused on the tasty
dishes as they were given to the judges, one by one, and were described and appraised
Nostrils flared as the scent of freshly cooked morels wafted towards them… as the descriptions
made their mouths water.
By the end of the competition, any semblance of exclusivity and seriousness
evaporated, as photographers, press reporters and friends, together with the more brazen
members of the audience began to tuck into the food.
For a few moments the whole event became free for all; hands stretching out to take
a bit of this or a spoonful of that… or another piece of the other.
Why aren’t there any photos of this happening? Because we were busy tucking in too
and can therefore sure your that the standard was very high indeed.
And the winner is…
Fortunately a list of the scores for each dish had been meticulously kept and finally,
after much anticipation, the winner was announced.
Most of the food had been eaten by this time.
Sound and lights
Later that evening, as on the other two nights, the market place was
transformed with rostra, lighting and hundreds of plastic chairs into
a temporary arena.
Bill and Daniel went home that night with a greater knowledge of
morel mushroom dishes, Turkish cuisine and village life
than they could have dreamed of…
For more about Bill O’Dea visit: www.mushroomstuff.com
For more about Daniel Butler visit: www.fungiforays.co.uk
They were guests of Ayşe and Cengiz Genç at Dikencik.