A fine load of porcini from Monte Amiata For a while it really looked as though there would be no funghi at all this year. No mushrooms? Niente funghi? All over Italy cooks wrung their hands: Mushrooms, wild or cultivated (but preferably wild), fresh from the forest, preserved in oil, or dried for winter storage, are as much a staple in many traditional dishes as salt, pepper, and garlic. But the drought that dried up streams and reduced major rivers like the Po to a mere trickle—the worst drought in 70 years, said the press—also desiccated meadows and woodlands where the vast array of wild funghi flourish. The mycelium was still there, wide-spread underground, but dormant in the soil of the forest floor; the mushrooms like tiny seeds waited for the early autumn rains to baptize them, waited for the dry earth to grow soft and moist and cushion them into life.