The Parable of Mushrooms
I hated mushrooms…
When I was four and I wrote in my journal, “I lik all food excip mushroms.”
Family members would say, “But, they’re really good in this dish.” Or, “Maybe you’ll like them this year.”
Every year or so, I’d try them, and I’d gag, reaffirming my decision that I hated mushrooms.
But, then, about eight years ago, I decided to give mushrooms another try. My oldest kid had a lot of food allergies and after seeing all the foods that would make him sick, I decided it was silly that I was holding out on one food because of a decision I made when I was four.
And, I still hated them. Slimy, tasting of dirt, with a smell that just epitomized everything yucky.
I tried them mixed in with my favorite foods—drenched in butter and garlic on toast, mixed in a Russian fresh mushroom soup, eating them in hot and sour soup instead of digging them out and pushing them to the side.
I felt a little better about mushrooms over time. They stopped making me want to gag. It got to a point after a few years when I could say that while I didn’t really I like mushrooms, I could appreciate them for their “mushroomness.” I didn’t hate them anymore and I could appreciate why, maybe, some people liked them, but I wasn’t one of them.
I pushed forward on this path when our family cut back on meat, and I saw that mushrooms are a filling, versatile, and healthy meat substitute. I realized that portobellos aren’t bad at all, especially marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled. And, they were always safe if you left them on the kitchen counter for a couple hours unlike a forgotten marinating pork tenderloin.
I realized about a year ago that I quite enjoy mushroom dishes. Some of my very favorite dishes have mushrooms. All the flavors of “Beef in a Costume” are enhanced when mushrooms are present in this pumpkin dish. I’m not sure there’s anything more comforting or nourshing than the Barefoot Contessa’s Mushroom Lasagna. And, is it blasphemous to say that I actually prefer Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Bourguignon to Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon?
I love their earthiness. They’re also mysterious…did you know that mushrooms the only food we eat that are neither plant nor animal? With their own unique classification of fungus, mushrooms are special. Don’t you want to read, “9 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Mushrooms”? Well, here you go!
I have reflected on my new-found appreciation of mushrooms and my relationships with people.
As a teenager (who leaned a bit towards the pious and liberal side), I had a stake president who I put in the same category as mushrooms. He was a far right-wing conservative with a military background and a fondness for sports analogies that I couldn’t relate to and a propensity to go 15-20 minutes over when he spoke at any church meeting. I felt like he was full of bravado and arrogance. I neither liked him nor thought to appreciate him for his mushroomness.
But, when I was sick in the hospital for six weeks, he made sure to visit me often. He was tender and kind. He gave me heartfelt blessings. He organized a stake-wide fast on my behalf (my mom knew not to tell me until after I was doing better—a brilliant move on her part because I pretty much thought that meant I was dying). He was humble and gently helped our family through a hard time.
Though, to this day, we do not see eye-to-eye on many political and cultural matters, we both have a love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I not only appreciate his mushroomness, but I love that he was willing to share it with me as I got to know him better.
This is one of my favorite things about my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I come across a lot of people I might think of as mushrooms, but over time, I learn from them and come to love them. Their views on doctrine and application can be radically different from mine but enrich my understanding and help me to develop a more nuanced view of the Gospel. And, their life experiences are often very different than mine. I love glimpses into the mundane lives of my sisters and brothers that I wouldn’t get to glimpse if not for my membership in this church.
It’s still not always easy…it took me over 25 years to love mushrooms after all, and there are people who I suspect will take me that long to at least appreciate their mushroomness (as I hope they work to appreciate mine). But, I gain so much when I take the time to try.
How have you learned to appreciate the “mushroomness” in others?
One more…I can’t leave off without my favorite recipe using mushrooms: