Morel Tales

The Culture of Mushrooming
Author: Gary Alan Fine
How people and groups attempt to give meaning to the natural world that surrounds them
Paper – $23
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/2003
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About the Book

Drawing on the observations of three years spent in the company of dedicated amateur mushroomers and professional mycologists, Gary Alan Fine explores the ways in which Americans attempt to give meaning to the natural world, while providing an eye-opening look inside the cultures they construct around its study and appreciation.A landmark work of environmental sociology, Morel Tales is an engaging and instructive examination of a thriving community, one with its own language, ceremonies, jokes, narratives, rivalries, and social codes. Fine also provides a detailed discussion of the American phenomenon he calls “naturework” -- that is, culturally constructing one’s own place in the natural environment through communities with shared systems of assigned meaning.“Naturework,” Fine observes, is something we all do on some level -- not only birders, butterfly collectors, rock hounds, hunters, hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts, but all of us who construct community through narrative and nature through culture.

About the Author

Gary Alan Fine is a professor of sociology at Northwestern University and the author of nineteen books, including Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work, and Gifted Tongues: High School Debate and Adolescent Culture.


"In a way that has come to characterize his work, Fine . . . gets serious without losing his sense of humor. As with the best of good sociology, we are quickly persuaded that by studying seemingly esoteric behavior, mushroom hunting, we can learn about basic social processes."--Robert Bogdan, in Contemporary Sociology

"Insightful, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable."--Robert Sommer, sociologist and mushroomer, in Social Forces

"An exceptional ethnography. . . . Morel Tales is a meal served by a chef not afraid to take chances, one willing to go far afield in search of the right morsels-–or morels. . . . profoundly pleasurable."--Rik Scarce, in Symbolic Interactions

"Fine is the leading scholar in the U.S. on the sociology of small group behavior, and Morel Tales is among his very best work."--Brooke Harrington, professor of sociology, Brown University