Monday, March 27, 2017
A Chilling Sacrifice
They’d been sitting in the fridge for at least twelve days, and I knew I would never eat them. Yet each day as I looked upon my two little prisoners held captive in a bag of plastic, I somehow convinced myself that they would be consumed. Yes my delusional self thought, I shall use them in a stew or perhaps a lovely and tasty soup. Even the synthetic sack that held my imprisoned fungi was begging for release. Its yellowing tinge seemed to now be in sympathy with the darkening pair held ever so tightly inside.
I remember the day I brought them home from the farmer’s market. Two big beautiful portobello mushrooms, with stately, bountiful caps and mighty stems. They looked like twins in their color and size. I imagined the pair growing up together from little spores in a lovely manure-seasoned raised bed somewhere out in Monterey County. How happy they must have been with their fellow Agaricus bisporus as they proudly rode together in the bed of the Ford pickup truck heading north to the farmer’s market. I bet they were singing a little mushroom song.
When I first got them home I planned to grill them up for lunch and make a wasabi lemon sauce to spread on lightly toasted francese bread. Or better yet, I’d hollow them out and stuff them with a sun-dried tomato risotto, with little green onion and aged Parmesan cheese on top. I had such bold and delicious plans for them.
For the first five days a six-pack of Belgian beer hid them from view, which was really no one’s fault at all. On the sixth day of their chilly incarceration I swore on my little chef’s heart that I’d marinate them in a tamari ginger sauce and roast them on my gas grill, but alas, that slab of fatted cow would be ever so much more pleasing to my palate.
By the eight day I knew I was never to employ either of theses two dying jumbo mushrooms of the crimini persuasion for any type of culinary pleasure, yet I refused to take them where all vegetables go to lie down, to my large black plastic biostack compost box.
No, I thought, I’ll just leave them in the fridge and each day I will continue to fool myself that I will soon consume them. I wondered if my two captives turned to each other as they were wasting away and said, “Had he only put us in paper we would have kept so much better.” Or “The master’s not getting any younger—surely we are a healthier alternative to the red meat and sea creatures he seems to consume every day?” Or perhaps, “My gills, my gills are wilting away.” Or finally, “Of all the fridges in all the towns, why did we have to end up in this one?
It was day ten—I stared at the bag and realized the fungi were really getting funky. My pair of basidiomycetes were now becoming one. Oh, I thought, first thing tomorrow morning I’ll chop them up with some carrots and onions and make them into a hash and put a little poached egg on top. The next morning came and I chose oatmeal and thus another day of uncertainty for my two little fungus friends. If a vegetarian zealot were to run a news story about my treatment of the two large capped captives, the headline and story would go something like this:
Portobellos Held Hostage, Day Eleven
Somewhere on the west side of Santa Cruz, California, two beautiful mushrooms are slowly wilting away as an aging folk musician turns a blind eye to their plight. Pictures at eleven.
Each day it was the same—I opened the door, I looked at them in the bag, I nodded at them, and they didn’t nod back. Mr. and Mrs. Portobello were shrinking and merging together in some sort of fungi mush. They were not the first pieces of nature to perish in my fridge. I have had my share of dead lettuce, wilted parsley, lumpy rutabagas, and limp celery. It’s best not to even reflect on that pair of rainbow trout I left in the chiller when I went away to New Zealand for five weeks. Suffice it to say, when I opened the door of the fridge I had what can only be called “a gastronomic Stephen King moment.”
Throughout human history the mushroom has been a symbol of the magical, mystical, and supernatural aspects of life. By day twelve they had indeed taken on aspects of both the mystical and supernatural as they had been truly transformed into some form of sinister orbicular amulet. And on the thirteenth day I shook their respective remains out of the bag and into the big black biostack in my back yard. I felt an added sense of guilt as it took a while to remove all their little mushroom parts from the plastic. Sensing an immediate need for spirituality I improvised a little on-the-spot prayer, something like this:
As I lay you back into the earth I realize it will be a welcomed relief from your captivity in a petroleum-based bag that lay within the chilly confines of my Maytag for all too long.
I truly regret never using and appreciating your talents in a stir-fry or a sandwich as I had promised. I do indeed have a real and a sincere sense of remorse that your delicate skins will never know the sizzling heat of my Weber. However, you are now going back to the same place from which you came and with a little luck you may be pushing up spores again soon. Though I have not consumed you I have in my own magical way given you a shot at immortality.
May you mix well and become one with the pineapple skins, potato peels, turnips, eggshells, and coffee grinds. Amen.
Also present were three brown carrots, a half a bunch of cilantro, a very sad little onion (who wept throughout the ceremony), and some form of vegetable that at one time was called a beet. I then took my spade and mixed them all around to hasten their journey back to Mother Earth. I bowed my head in respect as I closed the top of my biostack. After returning my shovel to the shed I went in the house, grabbed my favorite burlap bag and headed down the farmer’s market.