Mind Over Mushroom Challenge Post Show

Bowl of MushroomsI gave myself 25 days. In that 25 days I ate umpteen pounds of mushrooms. Brown ones, white ones, small ones, big ones, round ones, saucer-shaped ones, alien-looking ones, medusa-like ones, whole, sliced, diced, processed – I covered the spectrum pretty darn well.

I learned that…

  1. Mushroom soup isn’t the worse. Mushroom skulls are.
  2. I have been a massive baby about mushrooms my whole life.
  3. While knowing #2 to be true, I still have a mushroom aversion.
  4. Some mushrooms are better than others. There actually is a difference.
  5. Whole mushrooms are the hardest to eat.
  6. Fresh mushrooms are the easiest to eat.
  7. Mushrooms aren’t that bad (says my mind).
  8. Mushrooms are horrible (says my heart).

But perhaps, the biggest lesson I learned is that

  1. A changed mind takes constant work. You can endure many things and if you endure long enough you just might be able to tip the scales.

I changed during this challenge. Every challenge does that – it’s part of the reason why it’s important to push yourself, to try new things, to attempt to become better in some form. In this challenge I tried to overcome my aversion (hatred and disgust) of mushrooms. While ultimately I failed, I can’t admit that this was a complete failure – far from it, in fact.

I began with a rampant refusal to ever eat a mushroom. I ended with having eaten an astonishing amount and variety of mushrooms. I don’t like mushrooms – that still remains – but I no longer have an excuse (not that I ever really did) for leaving mushrooms on the side of my plate or refusing food because there is a mush chunk in it. I can eat mushrooms. I can do it. My dislike for mushrooms isn’t nearly as strong as it once was.

Your mind can be a prison guard if you let it. It’ll close those doors and throw away the key and you won’t even realize it. But if you can open it up enough to face your problems, to try and change, to let the understanding that what you have always held as truth may not be true, then you have more power and strength than you know. People (myself included) like to bury themselves in ignorance. This challenge may have been about mushrooms, but it could have been about anything. The hardest part is admitting that what you knew to be true, might be wrong.

Most times, when people are faced with this, they entrench themselves even more so in their beliefs rather than trying to see another perspective. It’s scary. Opening that door just a crack could change everything. So most of us resolutely slam it shut and turn a blind eye. It’s bigger than mushrooms, but if you can look your fear or problem or issue in the metaphorical eye than you stand a chance at overcoming your own ignorance and seeing real truth, not just your version of it, not just the version you want to believe.

Today, the real truth is that mushrooms aren’t the worst. The final thing I would like to leave you with is a request. When you find yourself in a you vs. something else situation, try and see that other perspective. Really try. Life is truly lived in the gray.

Outcome: Failure

(But with great strides of progress)

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 25: Perspective

This is the end. Of the the Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, that is. The last few days have been tough. I designed it that way so it would give me a chance to build up to the meals that would be the most trying. So at least I got that right. However, tonight Roasted Mushroomswasn’t so bad. I piled up a variety of mushrooms, cooked them whole and ate them. Simple as that.

Also, I was allowed to use a fork. Being able to cut the mushrooms rather than bite into them like finger food does make a difference for me. The texture didn’t seem as bad as it usually does and the taste was completely okay. A month ago I was thinking I was an idiot for taking on this challenge. Now, I’m glad I did. I pried my mind open and it was a good thing. (There’s a lesson in that, folks.)

I won’t say that I like mushrooms. I know that I still prefer not to eat them, but I also know that I don’t have quite the same revulsion as I did before. Perhaps, in time, this too would change. Eating mushrooms every day is a bit tedious. There were many days where my longing for some other form of food had nothing to do with my aversion for mushrooms. You know that old situational question? If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Your answer doesn’t even matter because if you choose your favourite food – it will soon become everything but your favourite food. You’re screwed no matter what. This was almost like that. Mushrooms, mushrooms, and more mushrooms.

However, by resigning myself to my fate it allowed me to bring down my barriers and gave me the chance to overcome the hatred. There is definitely something to be said for facing your fears head on. This might seem like a goofy little challenge trying to eat something I hate, but the implications are much more widespread than that. I really want to stress that what I went through can be applied to a lot of other situations where it’s not just about fear, but perspective. That’s the big thing. Perspective. My family would never think that I would ever do this. They’re the ones who know just how innate my issue with mushrooms is, but I tried it and my perspective has changed. It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of perspective we’re talking about – that’s an impressive thing.

It does make you think you are capable of anything. You might have specific situational restrictions, but nothing is harder to overcome than the way you think about something. If you can do that, can’t you do anything?

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Roasted Mushrooms: chanterelles, white mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms, portobello mushroom, garlic, smoke, salt, and pepper

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 24: Mushroom Roulette

I’ve learned a few things over the past few mush meals and that has caused me to do the old switcheroo for the remaining two feasts. Initially this was supposed to be the grande finale of the challenge, but now it’s the penultimate meal.

While perusing mushroom-based dishes, I saw a picture for a ragu. Now, it’s already been established that I’m not proficient in the kitchen so it should come as no surprise that I had no idea what a ragu was. Based on the picture it just looked disgusting to me and earned top spot as my hypothesized worst meal. I didn’t look too much further into it than that. It looked gross and like it was maybe a soupy tapas type thing. It’s not.

I cooked it according to the recipe, but then had no idea how I was supposed to eat it so I turned on the internet and looked it up. Supposedly it’s some sort of sauce that goes on pasta. My cupboard’s are bare (I mean, really, I’m spending all my dough on mushrooms… I open the fridge door and it just smells like Toadstools den…) so I didn’t have pasta. Luckily I didn’t try to eat it like soup. That would have been bad. Instead, I whipped up some rice and did a little improvising.

Also important to note (a lesson I learned in the nick of time) is that marsala is wine. Not masala. Who knew one letter could make such a world of difference?

Now, where things get tricky is with the sheer variety of mushrooms that I loaded this second-to-last meal with. When it came down to the eating, it was some pretty shady business. One mouthful might be full of shiitake mushrooms, another might be chanterelle, and yet another might be shimeji.Shimeji Mushroom

[Side note: That last mushroom (the shimeji) really creeped me out. All the stems huddled together into one clump and it felt like there were a million tiny little mushroom cap heads poking out. I couldn’t even look at it – a strange, inexplicable fear that it was some Medusa-like reincarnation nagged at the corner of my mind and as I brought the knife below the mushroom caps, I almost felt that a single cut would cause the network of mushrooms to squeal or hiss like a hundred snake heads ready to attack.]

Mushroom RaguBy putting so many different varieties together, it made it very clear that there really are some mushrooms that are better than others. But I’ll never know which ones. They were all diced up and looked the same to me so every fork-full was full of trepidation. Will I get lucky? Will it be a good one? An okay one? A bad one? Which ones are the bad ones? I can’t tell. What’s this? Is this even a mushroom? It must be. It has to be. Oh, wait, no. It’s just rice and parmesan. My hands start to sweat. I fidget, eyeing up the plate of mushrooms from the corner of my eye. This is ridiculous. The meal isn’t even bad. But you don’t know what you’re putting in your mouth! Oh hell, just pull the trigger already.

Mushroom roulette is not for me.

The meal was better than I had expected, although serving it with rice was really a saving grace. However, I will now forever be perplexed by which mushrooms are okay… because I distinctly remember one precise fork-fullwhere the mushroom that was in it was maybe the best mushroom ever. We all know that my saying that isn’t really an honour. Not when it comes from me.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Ragu – chanterelles, white mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms, onion, garlic, chicken broth, cream, parsley, and parmesan

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 23: Liquid Courage

Yesterday was a catastrophe so today I decided to hit the bottle to help me through. Drinking BeerJust kidding. Sort of. It was a beer-battered mushroom popper kind of day.

Throughout the prep and cooking, I started to feel that these were going to be delicious, but the events of yesterday still haunted me as I took my first bite. Everything but the mushroom was really awesome: the batter on the shroom, the dip to accompany it, and the beer to wash it down. Despite all of that, the mushroom was still an upset. Like yesterday, I had to bite into the whole mushroom and it was not enjoyable. As I looked at the half still in my hand it was like I was re-living yesterday: the same gross grey fat blob peered out from inside the batter and I could feel my instinctual gag-reflex rising up inside. I battled it back down and popped the other half into my mouth.

It’s not as bad as you think it is. It’s not as bad as you think it is. It’s not as bad it’s not as bad it’s not as bad it’s not as bad it’s not as bad it’s not as bad…

Bile and vomit rise up in my throat. I force it back. I eat another. I don’t take a bite – I put the whole thing in my mouth so I don’t have to see the insides. It helps. A little. I chew slowly focusing more on the gag that is still trying to erupt from the pit of my stomach than on the actual mushroom itself. I know it isn’t as bad. But like some horrible mind game, every time I blink mushrooms flash across my thoughts and I keep seeing the other half of the mushroom. I try to force it out of my mind, but it keeps pulsing back in like a terrible techno beat.

I eat another.

I dig in deep, reaching down into the very pit of my stubbornness. I refuse to quit. I will not let the shroom win. I will be victorious! The impulse to gag hovers at the top of my throat. I will not barf. I will not gag. I won’t be as weak as yesterday.

Somehow I make it. I sit back in my chair and cradle the beer. I sit there long after the mushrooms are gone and the meal is over. Like reflecting on a bad night out, I can still feel the impulse to upchuck lurking inside. I can tell a line has been drawn in the pit of my stomach. I came to the edge of it yesterday; today I crossed it. I don’t feel particularly proud because I wouldn’t say that I overcame my aversion, but rather that I am so damn ornery that I forced myself to endure it.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Sauce – mayonnaise, chives, lemon juice, Dijon, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and garlic

Beer Battered Mushrooms – cremini mushrooms, flour, chives, thyme, salt, pepper, dark beer (I used Sasquatch Stout from Old Yale Brewing Co…. it was great), and vegetable oil

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 22: Death Skulls & The One-Bite Heartbreak

I’m a little furious over today’s recipe. Aside from MushBurg One, I’ve finished every meal until this catastrophe.

When I chose what recipes I would take on at the beginning, I stumbled across “Mushroom Skulls” and it just seemed so perfect. The name was accurate given that mushrooms have historically made me feel like death, the recipe had just two ingredients, and there was a bit of artistic work involved in making them look like skulls. Unfortunately, I only glanced over the instructions. It seemed simple so I thought it was a slam dunk of a recipe. Wrong.

Mushroom Skulls

 

You cook the mushrooms and then you let them get cold. Again, I didn’t think too much of this until they were getting cold and when I touched them the wrongness of the situation came rushing at me like an avalanche of dawning horror. This was not supposed to be the worst meal. However, today I tumbled and fell and crashed and burned. I’m talking half a mushroom here. I ate half a mushroom. One bite.

This is incredibly disappointing. I was doing so well. I didn’t even see it coming. Blind-sided by a death skull… Half a stinkin’ mushroom!

This recipe is ridiculous. A fresh whole, uncooked mushroom – I got it. Even a cooked mushroom – I stand a decent chance. But a cooked mushroom that sits on the counter until it gets cold? Why? Why would someone do that? It’s not good. It’s not okay. It’s every sort of awful.

I bit into it and the texture wasn’t like a fresh mushroom; it was like a cooked mushroom because, obviously, it was cooked once upon a time. And it was cold so it was like the equivalent of drinking cold coffee. Not iced coffee, mind you, but your piping hot, brewed up exactly right cup of coffee that you absent-mindedly let sit on the counter until you pick it up three-quarters of an hour later, take a big gulp and realize how much time has passed because it feels like the cold kiss of death on your lips.

I looked at the other half of the mushroom that I still held in my hand while trying to swallow the first bite. It was gray and gelatin looking – like something that wasn’t cooked, but should have been – almost like a cross-section of fat that had sat on the counter until it started to go bad and turned gray. I could feel that cold, decaying fat slab in my mouth. There was no escape. It had to go down. I swallowed… and I was done.

One bite. Heartbreaking.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Mushroom Skulls – white button mushrooms and balsamic vinegar

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 21: Me Vs My Childhood Horror

It took me a quarter of an hour just to get up enough gumption to take the first spoonful of today’s meal. Needless to say, it was a long and difficult meal. I will admit that it didn’t need to be. Throughout it I kept inwardly reminding myself that it’s not as bad as you think it is. But it was like playing a mind game with myself (crazy right?) because my guts kept telling me that yes. Yes it is that bad.

So even though I knew it wasn’t so horribly, life-endingly bad, I still couldn’t overcome my feelings towards the soup. However, I did manage to get through it and I now feel a bit foolish for my childhood self and the big stink I would throw when my folks busted out the mushroom soup. It is still quite ingrained, but I don’t need a puke bucket anymore… so… sorry ma, sorry pa!

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Cream of Mushroom Soup (from a can)

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 20: ‘Magic’ Mushrooms

The work day ends and I hit the streets – on the hunt for Christmas presents. The big day is getting close and I’m not prepared. Natural sunlight has long since left for the day and by the time I make it back home I’m well into the evening hours. I have, however, called in the reinforcements so I have a mushroom meal already almost ready as I open the door.

My dining companion stands in front of the stove flipping burgers. Today I am trying mushrooms burgers for the third time. The first mushroom burger was a regular veggie patty smothered in sliced mushrooms, the second was store-bought pre-made burgers, and today I am having the grand-daddy of mush-burgs: The Portobello mushroom burger (the real kind where the patty is the whole mushroom cap.)

I look at the burgers in the fry pan and I’m astonished.

“Wow! Those don’t even look like mushrooms.” And they don’t. They look like meat burgers. They also smell like meat burgers and it seems impossible that a gigantic mushroom cap can transform so completely when it’s fried up.

As I do a mini-photoshoot of the burgers, lifting the bun, capturing different angles, I’m impressed all over again. The seemingly impossible transition has me on edge. When it the other shoe going to drop?

Lifting the burger to my mouth, I think of the gills and the texture and take a tiny bite. It seems just fine. I take another bite, a bigger one. And then another. Halfway through the burger I realize that it is absolutely delicious. There is no other shoe! It must be the Portobello mushroom – in each meal they’ve been in, I’ve been fine. Maybe it really is a mushroom with special edible capabilities.

“So how did you make them? Did you cut out the gills and the stem? I can’t see any remnants of them. It’s crazy – they look like a real burger.”

My dining companion turns to me, brow furrowed, with a look of suspicious puzzlement. “What? No. You wanted me to pick through the patties and take those pieces out?”

*a long pause*

*THUD*

The shoe drops.

“I got these from the mushroom burger package in the freezer.”

All at once, everything clicks into place and I realize I’ve been had. These aren’t Portobello mushroom cap burgers at all. They are, in fact, the same burgers I’ve already eaten on Day 12. I close my eyes and groan at my stupidity. It all makes sense. There’s no way a mushroom cap could just magically transform into something that looks, tastes, and smells like something better.

I never specified that I had to eat a different type of mush meal each day, but that was something I was trying to do. That is now no longer a possibility. I am a bit disappointed because I had thought the giant mushroom cap as the patty would be a really good test of where I stand, but now I must forge on ahead to the rest of the remaining meals.

I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things in my challenges. This one is kind of up there. I mean, I was halfway through my meal before I even realized something was amiss…

Comparison of Portobello Mushroom Burgers

 

I just never thought my dining companion would trick me like that. I never saw it coming.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

‘Magic’ Burgers – portobello & white mushrooms, swiss cheese, cheddar, provolone, avocado, onions, chipotle, and buns