Our coats are still drying after attending the 40th annual Houby Festival in Berwyn on Sunday. Houby is Czech for mushroom. On our way to the Festival, we envisioned a parade of floats with children in cute little round-topped mushroom costumes, tasting a variety of mushroom dishes, and chatting with some local mushroom foragers while we purchase their local finds. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
Now I understand that this is an election year and have been lots of politicians in any parade in America in 2008. But the 40th annual Houby Festival parade was pretty much only politicians. I will do a shout-out to the Morton High School marching band in their classic, classic maroon and gold uniforms – they sounded great. And the guys who built and rode the six-seater bicycle were impressive. But I only saw one mushroom in the entire parade. It was a small red and white speckled cartoon mushroom on the sign for Past Houby Queens.
The food tents had fairly limited choices, none of which were indicative of their location at a mushroom festival: Hot dogs; steak sandwiches; barbeque; and fried dough with various toppings including strawberries and whipped cream, ketchup and cheese, and mushrooms. And that was about it; except for the booth from our favorite local Mexican restaurant, the Tamale Hut Cafe. They were serving corn on a stick, chicken nachos and mushroom tamales. We purchased our mushroom tamales and corn on the cob "Elote"and headed for shelter from the chilly rain in the tent with the lively Czech band. The tamales were yummy. Traditional Mexican tamales are not huge – and these weren’t either – but they were brimming with spicy (but not burning) sauce, a slice of roasted jalapeno, cheese and mushroom slices. I probably ate one full mushroom in my tamale. But the tamale and the corn slathered with butter, lime, chili powder, mayonnaise and cheese warmed us right up.
And about those mycologists, there were none. I did not see a single fresh mushroom at the Festival – although there was a table full of mushroom knick knacks. There was also a table with fresh vegetables from a local farm. But there were no mushrooms.
Without their namesake, I do wonder if the Houby Festival will live to see year number 41.