I really wanted to hunt for truffles this season.
I wanted the dog and the muddy boots and the baskets of tartufi to grate over pasta.
We headed to Le Marche to find our truffles, but the rain got there first.
The ground was too wet for truffling. The year overall was a bad one for delicious, earthy nibbles.
The truffles were off.
One day of sunshine was not enough to bring forth any mushrooms, either.
There would be no tromping through Italian forests.
I tried to contain my disappointment.
There was a walnut grove down the road, they offered halfheartedly at the agriturismo.
Walnuts are not truffles, I grumbled to myself.
But we set out anyways, as there was nothing else to be done so deep in the county.
The grove was dotted with sunlight, and a few stooped figures.
ARE YOU THE YOUNG PEOPLE STAYING IN THAT TRAILER? An older gentleman yelled to us. It sounded like a challenge, and gathering walnuts no longer seemed like a good idea.
After we explained that we only wanted to walk through, we discovered the misunderstanding.
While we thought we were about to be chased off, the walnut-picker thought the same of us. He feared we had arrived to charge him for the nuts he was freely packing into his basket.
Suddenly, instead of truffle hunting, we were getting a lesson in foraging.
Our reasons for being in the grove were the same: it was too wet for other forest scavenging. The gentleman was a mushroom expert, but was making the most of the damp day to collect walnuts for his friends.
He showed us what to look for, how to collect the fallen walnuts, and provided instructions on cleaning and drying.
We had no basket, so he loaded our plastic grocery bag with the bounty.
Uplifted, we had to say goodbye.
We thanked him for the lesson and for the conversation and set out for home.
Two kittens followed up back up the country road, which further healed the disappointment.
Walnuts are not truffles, but you never know what you will find if you just keep on pushing ahead.