Our Four-day Gathering of Old & New Friends

COMA’s Clark Rogerson Foray

by Dianna Smith and Don Shernoff


The 2006 COMA Clark Rogerson Foray was a success with over 90 people attending the four-day event.  Friends came from all over the continent including Quebec, Maine, Illinois, Long Island, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee, Connecticut and New York.   As always, the foray was an ideal forum to rekindle friendships and initiate new ones – and thanks to Gary Lincoff, Sam Ristich and our guest presenters, it was also a perfect opportunity for learning more about the wild and wacky world of mushrooms and the people who love them.

As our chief mycologist, Gary Lincoff was kept busy identifying the mushroom collections, leading daily walk-around-the-tables information sessions, and answering our endless questions.  Sam Ristich, Ed Bosman, Roz Lowen, Leon Shernoff, Sandy Sheine, Ursula Hoffmann and others pitched in whenever they could. Despite dry weather prior to the foray and soaking rain during the foray, we managed to find almost 300 species of identifiable fungi and about 9 slime molds in the area’s mushroom-rich state parks. There were at least another 20 or so that we just didn’t have the time to identity.  Perhaps the most notable specimen, found by young Hannah Rosenfelder, was a bolete that fruits on wood rather than the ground. It is appropriately named Boletus lignicolus.  

We had an embarrassing richness of presentations in both quantity and quality.  John Rahart of the New Mexico Mycological Club talked about mushroom toxins and their effects. Elinoar Shavit spoke on truffles of Israel from an historical and scriptural perspective.  Multi-talented David Work  showed us a compendium of his NAMA award-winning mushroom slides.  Ed Mena updated us on research methods and objectives for his company, LifePharms.  Dave Rose spoke on the people involved in the growth of mycology (professional and especially amateur) in the United States. Carol Levine led a wild plant workshop.  Gary led discussions around the display tables daily after both breakfast and dinner.  Both he and Roz Lowen spoke with us on Sunday morning about our collections.    


                                 (Photo by Jerry Sheine)  

Other highlights of the foray included our celebration Friday afternoon of the engagement of Roz Lowen and Ed Bosman who, incidentally, first caught each other’s eye at the previous year’s COMA foray!  The two generously donated 15 lbs of Maitake grown at Franklin Farms in N. Franklin, Ct. and 12 liters of wine from New Hampshire for the festivities.  While we dined on the delicious mushroom creations of Damon Brunette and his squad of sous-chefs, Sandy Sheine, Terry Stoleson and Connie Boredenko led celebratory remarks and remembrances commemorating the couple’s engagement.  On our final evening, we celebrated the 90th (and a half) birthday of everyone’s “Mushroom Guru,” Sam Ristich.   Sandy, Terry, Connie, Roz, Ed, Dorothy Spaulding and Bill Bakaitis all spoke movingly about Sam – his generosity of spirit and knowledge - and his indelible influence on amateur mycology in the northeast.

Our meals were healthy and delicious thanks to JoAnn Parady and her conscientious family staff.  Damon, a professional chef, took charge of afternoon mushroom cookery.  Our mycophagy-tasting sessions may have been the best ever due to his original recipes and assistance from David Work, also a chef, along with Beverly Leffers,  Karen Spiak, Joe and Kathy Brandt, Lou Tartaro and Lisa Solomon.  Among the dishes served were: bruscetta of tomato, fennel, and lemon with cultivated maitake; spaghetti with Meripilus and rosemary; Shiitake shumai dumplings; fricasee of fresh corn, peppers and chanterelles; marinated Agaricus bisporus with crackers and summer sausage; Laetiporus nuggets; maitake croquettes with chili dipping sauce; lobster mushroom and basil rice; marinated maitake salad with peppers and cauliflower; Beech rooters (Xerula furfuracea) with garlic; wild mushroom caponata on toast; and heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella. As if that were not enough, Roger Wilson arranged to have a renowned local cheese-making business bring samples of their specialties for all to test.  Juices, beer, Chardonnay, White Zinfandel and Merlot wines helped slake our thirst and foster conversation.   

In our ‘down’ time, some found a few moments to throw horseshoes, take a swim or toss basketballs at the hoops.  After the evening programs, a few stayed up till 1:00AM playing ‘Scrabble’ or ‘Go.’.  Others camped outside our rooms on benches to share mushroom memories and dreams of future gatherings with each other.  On the final night, we congregated around the new Cave Hill fire pit and roasted marshmallows before returning to the dining hall for the live auction led by Leon Shernoff. 

As always, the tchochka auction was hilarious as Leon kidded and cajoled us to buy assorted mushroom paraphernalia.  This auction raised over $300 for COMA, while a silent auction organized by Sue Rose raised over $100.  In addition, Roz Lowen, Sam Ristich and Ursula Hoffmann donated their honoraria to COMA.   Their generosity is deeply appreciated.  These proceeds help us keep foray fees low. 

Given the increasing popularity of the COMA Foray, you might think that we intend to rest on our laurels.  No way!  We have lots of ideas for improving this annual ‘work in progress.’  Here is a list of some of the areas we are working on in preparation for August 23-26, 2007:

            1. Post sign up sheets for rides to scheduled walks.

            2. Guided educational mushroom walks for participants who want them.

            3. Signs to remind attendees that mycophagy tasting is just that – a tasting, not a meal! There will be enough for everyone if we keep this in mind.

            4. More knowledgeable people at the sorting tables to assist Gary and others in the identification, display of specimens and the daily clean-up of the tables. (See article on MUSHROOM UNIVERSITY below)

            5. Organization of the sorting tables and fungal categories in a way to facilitate learning.

            6. Additional lighting for display room.

            7. Dianna promises to contribute only one vial of Chanterelle Vodka to next year’s auction so that Leon has time to entice everyone to bid on non-alcoholic items.

 Overheard at the COMA Foray



                                                                                                             Naomi Stern


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