“No” is generally a very easy word to say. I think this is one of the reasons it is often times the first word out of kids’ mouths. It is simple, short, to the point, and doesn’t require any complicated aerobics of the tongue and soft palate to say. You can say it once, softly but forcibly (as in: “no, I will not eat that mushroom, but thank you for offering.”) You can say it several times with increasing volume (as in: “no, no, no, no, no, no, NO, NO!! They’ve put mushrooms in my entrée!”) You can say it with a dying wail (as in: “NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo……I don’t want to eat that mushroom!”) The options are really limitless.
It is also easy to say because by saying it you can often avoid getting involved in something that may be boring, difficult, unreasonably time-consuming, expensive and/or awkward. Or something that will amount to a lot of commitment and discomfort for you. For example: a year-long project involving foods you are afraid of.
I’ve suffered a few manic episodes since taking on this project and then announcing it to all my friends. Now that I can’t back out of it I think I might be having a mild freak-out.
I’m not sure if I gave myself too long to get all amped up for the project and now I’m on the down slope, but I have gone from “I-can’t-wait-to-eat-some-mushrooms-I’ve-already-begun-making-up-recipes-in-my-head-even-though-I’ve-never-cooked-a-mushroom-in-my-life-I-think-I-am-going-to-love-them!” excited to “oh-no-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into-I-don’t-want-to-spend-the-whole-next-year-of-my-life-throwing-up-everything-I-eat-this-is-going-to-be-SO-GROSS!!!” disgusted at least 20 times today alone.
Soo, long story short, I went to the grocery store. I stood in the produce section and eye-balled the mushrooms from a distance. They looked harmless enough, nestled in their little plastic bins and packages, waiting for someone to take them home to smother them in butter and garlic. And to eat them. And love them. I really do think it is every mushroom’s goal to be loved by someone.
Fair enough. I circled in. The mushrooms seemed to put off a cool dampness (although honestly that could have just been a combination of the cooler case and my imagination.) Their odor drifted up—a mild, earthy smell; part dirt, part fungus, part forest floor. A recognizably, undeniably, but inoffensively ‘shroomy odor. Incidentally, I’ve never found “earthy” to be a particularly off-putting smell. It’s just not an odor I’ve ever necessarily associated with “nnnooommmm, FOOD!!“)
The portabellas did look meaty and hearty, if a little dried-out. But still no substitute for a delicious, medium-rare t-bone, I thought. Maybe tolerable drenched in teryaki marinade and grilled to death over really hot coals. It’s really the gills on the underside of the cap that freak me out—that’s where they store up all their spores, right? Ugh. Spores. Any suggestions?
I picked up one of the crimini mushrooms. Its surface was beginning to dry a bit from sitting out, but I could still feel the cool moisture residing just beneath the surface. The skin was soft, almost velvety, the flesh firm beneath. It wasn’t frightening at all. I began to feel a sort of condescending tolerance sweep over me. They’re harmless, I thought to myself. Nothing worry about here, see? They’re kind of even cute.
Not that I want to turn into one of those people who decorates their house with sketches and water colors of mushrooms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not my thang.
The button mushrooms were equally inocuous and adorable, but their pale color when compared to the warm, brown tones of the criminis seemed less appetizing to me. Not that I was ever tempted to take any of these suckers home and saute them up. I’ll wait, thank you. I anticipate lots of loving support from you all on April 29th, and have no intention of jumping the gun only to find myself suffering alone.
So, after an hour or so of fondling mushrooms and receiving odd glances from fellow shoppers, I went to the floral department to buy some flowers and reward myself for my afternoon of epic bravery. As I selected a bunch of wine-colored carnations it occurred to me that flower petals have much the same texture as the surface of a mushroom: cool, velvety and tender. Absolutely nothing to be afraid of!
Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’ll eat a mushroom and I’ll hate it. And maybe, if it’s wrapped in enough crispy bacon and stuffed with enough gooey cheese, I’ll actually eat a mushroom I’ll like. It’s nothing that’s going to kill me, right?
I may need you to remind me of that on Mushroom Day.