How to ruin a perfectly good meal.
Step 1. Cook a perfectly good meal
Step 2. Add mushrooms
Words cannot express how deeply I loathe mushrooms. I shall of course try, but you’re going to have to imagine that when I type the word ‘mushroom’, I am hissing it from between venom-drenched clenched fangs of disgust and fury, enraged spittle flying across the room. It’s probably best not to be in the same room as me when I’m talking about them, to be fair, or at least wear galoshes and a sou’wester.
I cannot count the times I have been invited to someone’s house or visited a lovely restaurant and had my meal made entirely inedible by the addition of (brace yourselves for the spittle) mushrooms. I remember visiting Rome one year and unbeknownst to me, it was mushroom season (sorry there at the back, but you were warned. Here, have a tissue). How beautiful for those who enjoy the pungent deathly aroma and corpse-like texture of fungi, how exciting for those devoid of taste who enjoy seasonality over ingredients that aren’t akin to crotch rot. Not so good for me. You see, I pride myself in choosing very well in restaurants – people often get food envy when dining out with me, but during that Roman holiday, I was plagued by the generosity of the Roman chefs and their abundance of the season’s “fruit”.
I scoured every menu to ensure that my selection was one devoid of fungus, and every dish I ordered, as a generous flourish of seasonal pride, came festooned with a handful of complimentary mushrooms. The waiters all looked so pleased with this guarantee of extra tips – the finest local mushrooms, free, free! They may as well have sneezed all over my pasta and served my pizza with a smattering of boiled slugs. I’m fairly certain I’m the only person to have ever come back from Rome several pounds lighter than when they arrived.
Those who enjoy the experience of putting mould flavoured bogeys in their mouths will be unable to comprehend my distaste for this foodstuff. I have often been met with quizzical faces and retorts of surprise, but I am very far from alone. In fact, I have yet to meet more than a handful of people who are on the fence about the whole fungus debate; more so than the mighty Marmite ad slogan, you either love mushrooms or are right.
I have taken to telling friends that I am allergic to these vile mutant field and forest infesters, ordinarily a practice which I abhor. Unless a product is actually trying to kill you, you are not allergic and are generally just a fussy eater with a whingeing complex. However, the reason I tell people I am allergic to mushrooms isn’t because I just don’t like them a bit. I don’t particularly like many other things “a bit”, but when served them by someone who has toiled long and hard over one of those hot kitchen thingies, I shall graciously shovel it into my face and make suitably polite noises about what a pleasant evening I’m having. However, when faced with Beelzebub‘s genital warts (for that is what they are), the smell alone is enough to see me clasp my retching throat and flee the room faster than if it were filled with screaming babies and sleep-nodding commuters. The concept of actually placing one of these putrid pieces of parasitic rot into my digestive system, well, let’s just say I have been known to perform a fairly good impression of a technicolour fountain on more than one attempt at doing so.
“It’s ok, they’re in large pieces, you can just pick them out”. Really? In the same way that you can just pick the lumps of cow out of a beef stew and that makes it perfectly ok for vegetarians to eat? Pffft. In the same way that fungus spreads its root system for miles underground, pervading the peaceful countryside with plagues of pixie rings and puffballs, so too it does with your innocent pans of food. Just one mushroom is powerful enough to taint an entire meal with its evil lifeblood, leaving its gruesome ghost to lurk behind every innocent morsel, waiting to pounce and choke the innocent diner with the flavours of a freshly opened tomb.
If you like mushrooms (freak) then please be aware that there are a great deal of us out there who strongly object to foods that taste like a gravedigger’s sock and that have the texture of abandoned medical waste, so please, treat fungi with the caution it deserves and restrict it to the menus of other poor taste sufferers, and if you will insist on regularly inviting it into your repertoire of ingredients, please don’t be offended when my kind and I perform our interpretation of the Bellagio fountains in dramatic technicolour gory glory.