Living with the Mushroom People of Romania

(gentle music) – I have become obsessed with mushrooms. They’re so cool. Here’s why. Did you know that we’re more closely related to mushrooms than mushrooms are related to plants? Did you know that thing you see on the forest floor like this, is a small percentage of the mushroom itself? And did you know that this mushroom mycelium ties the whole underground world together? The trees can communicate with each other. It’s like a giant tree internet. Before this, all I knew about mushrooms is that some look cool. Some can make you crazy, and some can make you dead. But we came across an interesting opportunity to learn more in a far away forest in Romania. But before venturing off to remote parts of Romania to meet the locals, we got PCR tests done in Cluj. And that’s because as travelers, I think it’s very important we don’t drag our dirty feet around the world, especially in the places where the locals could be quite sensitive. The coronavirus pandemic has killed over a million people and has infected over 38 million. So when we travel, we wear a mask, we follow local regulations and make sure we’re being safe so others can stay safe too. So have a bigger perspective, a global perspective, knowing your actions affect others. People you might never actually meet. But if you’re a traveler, you probably think that way already. Anyway, on with the show. This is Valeriu and Liliana Bargan. They’re part of what’s called the Roma people. Over the next 24 hours, these two kindly invited myself, Ewa, and two of our friends out to forage mushrooms and to stay in their home. Let’s meet them. (speaking Romanian) – Great then, it seems like fitness is just as important as the food. So let’s start the adventure. Whoa! It’s as big as my hand! (speaking Romanian) (Mike laughing) To make schnitzels. (gentle upbeat music) Look at this thing. That’s incredible. I didn’t know mushrooms could get this big. I’ve got one! (cheering) (speaking Romanian) Wow. – [Liliana] Super! (gentle upbeat music) – Hey, Lili, these ones? – [Liliana] No. – No. Also no. I can find them. I just can’t find the good ones. Forest floor, it’s like an I-Spy game. Oops. You grab it, you twist the top off and then bring it back to the basket. Let’s go. Look at this. We’ve only been out here for 10 minutes. And we’ve already got this basket that’s pretty much full! This one not good either. Just realized, I haven’t introduced the crew yet. Leading the pack, Valeriu. – Da! – [Mike] Da. With Max and… – [Valeriu] Betty. – Max and Betty. Also, we have the lovely Ewa Zubek. – Hello there. (Ewa laughs) – And we can’t forget Lili. – Okay! – Okay. All right, as we trek through the forest, we’ve kind of broken up into two teams. I was in the back with Lili, picking those giant umbrellas. And Valeriu, Valeriu has been in the front with the two canine companions sniffing for truffles. I don’t know if he’s been successful or not. (speaking Romanian) (foliage breaking underfoot) From what I understand, cautare means search. And since the dogs are here, they’re sniffing for truffles. We saw the big ones, the big mushrooms that are above ground, truffles are underground. Part of the mycelium, the mushroom root network, and so dogs are necessary to find them because the human eye, we don’t have x-ray vision. Dogs have their noses, almost as good. (speaking Romanian) They’re not good. (speaking Romanian) He doesn’t know it. And therefore we do not take it. (foliage crunching) There’s so many here in the forest. We’re only picking a specific few that they know. Obviously if you’re eating mushrooms, you gotta be extra careful. So our two hosts are only picking the ones they know really well, but look, there are these stumps with these beautiful red ones. Almost as hard as wood. And so many other ones. It’s incredible. – No! – Why? Because crazy. (laughing) (speaking Romanian) If you eat these ones, you go crazy. Which is interesting, but not for us today. Take one? I can take one. No, don’t take one. (laughing) Find any truffles? Not yet? All right. (speaking Romanian) (crackling) – [Ewa] Lili just collected this entire big basket of mushrooms. – I say super! (speaking Romanian) (laughing) – [Mike] There we go, the mushroom queen. – [Ewa] What about me? – How do I say mushroom queen? (speaking Romanian) (laughing) When you stop for a second and just look around, there’s mushrooms everywhere. Look at this stump, for example. There’s one, two, three, four, five different mushrooms there, and maybe two or three other species, just around in the next few meters. It’s crazy, and just to think that that’s a small percentage of the actual fungus itself, most of it’s underground or in the stump. And that’s a small little, basically the berry of the fruit plant, if you want to think of it that way. It’s crazy, it’s a small little piece of a massive thing. I can’t even see it. It’s everywhere. There’s fungus among us. Fungus among us. Everywhere. (happy instrumental music) (laughing) So this is how it works. The dogs run around. They started digging in one spot and then we dig in that spot to find the truffle. We’re using our fingers. Lili and Valer have the truffle shovels. Oh, wow. Look at this. (speaking Romanian) Pig truffle. Dog finds a truffle, dog gets a treat. Look at that haul. And the dog’s like, “I found some!” (laughing) Amazing. A whole pocket full of black truffle. And depending on the season, that can be about 150 euro to about 400 euro a kilo. That’s gold. We’ve found… Well, we’ve not found. I have not found anything. – The dogs have found. – The dogs have found a larger truffle. And this smells insanely good. – Amazing. – It smells like the most decadent pasta you could ever have in your life. We get back in the car and head home to cook them. (gentle music) Right, we are back in the village to meet the whole family and we’ll actually be sleeping here tonight. And Lili’s going to prepare us a mushroom feast, which I’m very excited about. (speaking Romanian) Look at this. So it your famous schnitzel! (speaking Romanian) – [Mike] Super. – [Liliana] Super. – One, mushrooms come out of the basket. Step two, we have salt. (speaking Romanian) Now these parasol mushrooms we got today are literally as big as the pan itself. It’s as big as a pizza. It’s crazy. Before dinner, Lili’s daughter wants to take us for a walk around town. (speaking Romanian) (laughing) Hello! (speaking Romanian) There was a purpose for this journey. It was to get alfalfa for the rabbits. (gentle music) (speaking Romanian) Wow. (gentle music) What is that? What’s this? What’s this? (laughing and speaking Romanian) Look at you, man! (speaking Romanian) Look at you! (gentle music) And we’re back. The party’s just getting started behind me, and as you can imagine, dinner is going to be mostly mushrooms, but it’s also going to be chicken. And if you live in a place like this, you don’t get chicken from the grocery store, you get it from your yard, which means someone’s got to kill a chicken. And tonight, that’s person’s going to be me. Now I understand this is a sensitive topic. So let’s talk about it rationally for just a second. One of the greatest sins of our world, in my opinion, is us not respecting the meat we eat. Let me paint a picture for you, just briefly. We go to the grocery store. We buy potatoes, we buy cheese and we buy chicken. We check out, we go home, we cook it all for dinner, and it’s delicious. We don’t think about where that chicken came from. We treat it like as another vegetable we threw in our cart. Reality is, though, it was a life. And while we didn’t take it, the life with our hands, we still paid for that to happen. Whether it’s the blood on our own hands or somebody else’s, it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, to be a card carrying meat eater, you need to be comfortable with the reality of what meat is. It’s a life. And a life that comes from a place like this where they get to live a free one and they get to peck at the worms in the ground and flap around, that’s a great one. The people here respect the life. The chicken gets a good life and then they use everything. Because again, it is a life. You buy something at the grocery store, it comes from a shitty factory farm. We eat like one fine cut of it. The rest goes in the garbage. It’s disrespected. For me, what’s happening here tonight for our dinner to feed this family, to feed this party, is the best way to do it. I don’t like killing anything. I don’t like watching things get killed, but the reality is I’ve chosen eat meat and I’ve chosen to face the reality of what’s happening. That’s something I feel everyone should do. Anyway, on that note, let’s get the dinner started. (chicks peeping) (chicken clucking) This is Mario. – Mario. – [Mike] Mario is going to be our chicken catcher. (speaking Romanian) (laughing) All right, man. How’s that feel, good? – [Mario] Yeah. – [Mike] Yeah, good. – [Ewa] Good? – Good. All right. (Ewa laughing) (speaking Romanian) Go for it. (laughing) (speaking Romanian) (dogs barking) (speaking Romanian) (duck quacking) (speaking Romanian) (duck quacking) – [Ewa] Oh, and another duck! (speaking Romanian) – Good job. Good job, though! (speaking Romanian) (dog barking) (speaking Romanian) (chickens clucking) (intense music) (chicken clucking) (speaking Romanian) – And that is a chicken. – [Mario] Yeah. – Thank you. (speaking Romanian) (laughing) (Mike exhaling deeply) (dogs barking) (Mike breathing deeply) (chicken squawks) – [Male Voice] Yep, got it. (speaking Romanian) That was hard. My hand was shaking And the last thing I wanted to do was miss or only, you know, half. Ugh. And it was also weird with everybody watching. We’re all going to eat this animal together. And I just want to make it very clear again that I don’t enjoy doing this, but that’s why I do it. The channel’s about making yourself uncomfortable, making myself uncomfortable. And this is a ugly truth of what meat eating is. I think it’s important to do it, or at least witness it. If you do choose to eat meat. Now we’ll all enjoy the animal together, which is a beautiful thing. I’m just so happy I’m here with this family and they’ve invited us into the house and we get to celebrate, and, you know, exchange cultures. It’s why I travel. It still feels heavy. I don’t feel good about it, but it’s important. I’m happy I did it, even though it feels pretty shitty. Anyway, there’s more to it than just what we saw. Got to prepare it and now everybody’s inside waiting for me. So let’s go, let’s go join them. We pluck the chicken together, then Lili covers it in hand sanitizer and lights it on fire. (speaking Romanian) I was confused. She was joking about Corona, but it was actually to remove the last few feathers on the chicken. I think she’s quite excited that we’re enjoying her food. (conversation in Romanian) The chicken that was from the farm, the polenta, the mamaliga, the corn, ground corn meal, the mushrooms we caught today. Everything very local within just a few kilometers of here. Some of it, a few meters and it’s absolutely delicious. Here, I’ll prove it. (gentle music) See? Whoo! Delicious. Good morning and welcome to the master bedroom. Can you imagine having guests over and then you giving them your bedroom? The biggest bedroom in the house? Despite much resistance, it was inevitable. – They wouldn’t have it. – They wouldn’t have it. – Any other way. Oh! You okay? Whoo! Looks like the master bedroom is also a trampoline park. (speaking Romanian) Hi, good morning, good morning. (speaking Romanian) Oh, look at this! Coffee already. (speaking Romanian) Unfortunately I don’t speak Romanian, but you want some coffee? – Da. – [Mike] Da? Da means yes, you’re a kid. Do kids drink coffee? No. – No. – No. I didn’t think so. Hey! It’s coffee time. (eggs frying) (plate clinking against cups) (grating) (conversation in Romanian) And there they are, the black nuggets of yesterday. (deep inhaling) (gentle music) Okay, after a giant breakfast, we’re feeling full and getting ready for our next adventure. So we’re saying goodbye. And we’re going to get one big family photo together before we go. If we can wrangle them. There’s a lot of them. Let’s go. (speaking Romanian) – Okay! Three, two! – No, you too! Three, two, one, cheese! You are super! – Too super! – You, super like. Super like. (laughing) All right, good bye. See you later, okay. (laughing) Now it’s time for the surprise. It’s a volcano. Goodbye. – [Ewa] Bye! – It’s a volcano. Let’s go find it. This is called Racos Sleeping Volcano. It’s a volcanic plug, a tower of magma, that was then mined for resources. Cool, right? Super, Michael, schnitzel! – Schnitzel! – Lili and Valer were amazing hosts. It was so cool to meet the Roma people, go out and see them in their element, and get to taste some mushrooms as well. The adventures are not over. We’re camping tonight. Ewa solo-camped last night. Here, by herself in the forest. There’s a video about that. – It was crazy. – I’m solo-camping tomorrow night. – What do you mean? – In an abandoned castle. – Without me? – That I found. Without you, no girls allowed. Next video on Fearless and Far, solo-camping in an abandoned castle. Chase your fears, dragons. And I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t miss it. (soothing rhythmic music)

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