Honey, it's a honey mushroom.
Today I learned a new mushroom: the honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea and A. tabescens). Now that I've seen it, found it, and eaten it, I feel certain I could recognize this mushroom again. That's the great thing about taking a class with a master. Gary Lincoff knows mushrooms, and I've already learned a thing or two, in just a few hours.
He teaches a class called Mushroom Mania at the NYBG and I've wanted to take it for years. This year I rearranged my own teaching schedule so I could take the class and as we walked the grounds this afternoon there were honey mushrooms aplenty!
A. mellea is the ringed honey mushroom; A. tabescens is the ringless honey mushroom. Both are brownish-yellow, gilled, clumpers with white spores. Both grow at the base of trees or in open areas attached to underground roots. Both should be cooked for at least 15 minutes; undercooked honey mushrooms can cause upset stomachs.
I heard a theory on NPR yesterday. The happiest people have lots of small, happy events in their lives. You don't need a huge, million-dollar, once-in-a-lifetime event to be happy. It's better to have a lot of little, everyday pleasures and successes; that's what makes a person happy. And finding a big clump of honey mushrooms at the base of an oak tree in the Bronx, then cooking them up with pasta and garlic...well that makes me pretty darn happy. In a little, everyday, very tasty kind of way.