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 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

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 17: Holy Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttake.

I have spent a lifetime picking mushrooms out of meals. This is the first – and probably only – day that I did the reverse. THE REVERSE. I scraped away all of the other ingredients in today’s casserole and dumped them in the garbage bin until only the mushrooms remained.

How on earth can this possibly be my reality?

Well…. Because although I wouldn’t say that I am horrible in the kitchen, I also wouldn’t say that I am particularly gifted in there either.

Due to some life choices, I needed to have my mush meal during lunch rather than at supper and it was an unavoidable-needed-to-be-cooked-like-real-food-and-not-alphagettis-nuked-in-the-microwave type situation. But I don’t have enough time to whip up a family of four casserole over a short noon hour so I pulled out the old slow cooker.

That thing is the greatest of all inventions. It’s saved people time, heck, it’s probably even saved relationships. Lives! All of humanity! The crock pot is idiot-proof. Just slice, dice, toss, click and let it do its thing while you bugger off all day and then come back to a tender, perfect meal of awesome. That is how it’s supposed to work. That’s how it has always worked.

Until today. My first mistake was that I didn’t plug it in. So when I came home at lunch everything was exactly how I left it. No soft warmth to greet me at the door. No down-home smell wafting towards me. Just a cold pot of stuff probably gaining bacteria while sitting on the counter. With no options, I had to revamp my game plan. Wait until tomorrow or put that sucker on high and scarf it all down after work?

I’m not the patient type. So I plugged it in, slapped it over to high and went on my hungry way.

My second mistake was pouring 3 cups of rice into it and not nearly enough liquid. So this time, when I came home I was met with a warm fragrance laced with… burn. I think it takes real talent to be able to mess up a crock pot meal. It takes a special kind of intelligence to burn food in a crock pot, but I pulled out all the stops and managed to do it.

Slow Cooker Caserole

Now, because I didn’t have proper liquid proportions, those 3 cups of rice didn’t cook. So the entire thing  was just a mishmash of mistakes and altogether quite unsuitable for the eating… and I’m not even talking about the mushrooms. Oh the horror!

So with hard, uncooked kernels of rice and the black, burnt charred remains of broccoli and cheese…. I basically tried to eat two-face for supper.

On top of all that, the only solution was to pick through the casserole in my old Mush-Detective ways, and (this is crazy) save the mushrooms.

Today was just not my day.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Casserole: shiitake mushrooms, onions, garlic, cream, chicken stock, broccoli, cheddar, Monterey cheese, and rice

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 12: An Unexpected Victory

It’s a busy time of year. Not the best time for undertaking a daily challenge, but of course, I’m belligerent so here we are. To help prepare for the hectic holiday life, I bought pre-made, frozen mushroom burgers.

Remember how the first round of mushroom burgers went? I figured these ones would be worse. Pre-made, processed food is just generally not as good as homemade. I do eat it, but that fact still remains. Now the picture on the box showed a burger with sliced Mushroom burger packagingPortobello mushrooms poking out from between the buns. I was conjuring up all sorts of nasty in my head when thinking about those pre-made burgers with frozen mushrooms, but then I opened the box. Lo and behold – misleading packaging! The mushrooms were actually ground up into the burger patty.

Next thing I knew, I was halfway through the burger. I was on my lunch break and doing a handful of things all at the same time which meant I wasn’t focusing on my meal very much. Perhaps this was a good thing. It allowed me to demolish that burger without a second thought.

But then, at the halfway pause, I had that second thought:

This is… DELICIOUS.

You see, I’m a raging carnivore, but my dining companion is not. So when it’s a burger night I’m having veggie burgers. I’ve gotten used to this sad state of affairs, but today – hoo boy – today things have changed. This was still a veggie burger, but it had so much more flavor (and not a dirt mushroom flavor) and it wasn’t all dried out like the usual veggie burger. Plus it was the size of a normal burger. Maybe it’s just the brand I had been eating before, but those patties pre-mushburg were tiny, flat, tasteless hunks of nothing.

Eating a mushroom burgerI just can’t believe that mushrooms, of all things, has saved me from a horribly incomplete burger life.

I do have to note that if the packaging had been more honest and true to what it really was, I probably wouldn’t have the opinion I do now. As a child I couldn’t even eat ground up mushrooms, but now I’m realizing that I absolutely can. With today’s meal the mushrooms were pretty much processed into oblivion. Which is perfect.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Store Bought Mushroom Burgers – portobello & white mushrooms, swiss cheese, cheddar, relish, ketchup and buns

Mind Over Mushroom Challenge, Day 10: Get Stuffed!

A mound of cream cheese sits elaborately placed in its transportation vessel, waiting for the moment it will actualize its destiny. It’s piled high inside a mushroom cap and I eye it suspiciously. It looks delicious. Surely it’s a trap. I could have been anywhere: a stiff fundraiser dinner, a trying-to-be-fancy-but-failing-miserably corporate Christmas party, a lackadaisical games night with friends. The appetizer is innocuous – harmless, yet intriguing. Something you want to try.

credit: lure by final gather via flickr.com

credit: lure by final gather via flickr.com

I’m reminded of a deep sea angler fish. The cream cheese is the dangling light that lures you in. (A bacterial light, no less. Coincidence in a fungus challenge? I think not.) You realize you’ve been played as you pick it up. But it’s too late. That mushroom cap is in your hand and on the way to your mouth. You can’t just put it back now. No way. It’s yours. Everyone’s watching… or so you think. Beads of sweat break out on your forehead. It’s now or never. You close your eyes and focus on the insides. And it works. For a moment. But then your teeth sink into the mushroom that holds all of this goodness inside in some evil twist of fate and your body involuntarily shudders.

But you keep going. Chew. Chew. Chew. The party fades away into the background. Your friends become distant memories. All there is, is the here and now. You and the Shroom. Minutes pass like hours. You feel dehydrated. You might pass out. But then the cloud disappears, the sun shines through and you swallow. You’ve done it. No one was actually watching so no one sees the triumphant smile that creeps across your face, but it doesn’t matter. You did it.

Eating a Stuffed MushroomLike I said, I could have been anywhere. It just so happens I was at home with my dining companion. Much like the above situation, today was harder than the last few have been. It was really hard to reconcile all of the awesome that was happening inside the mushroom cap with the mushroom cap itself… so a little bit confusing. So far all the mushrooms I’ve eaten have been sliced or diced and this time I had to deal with essentially the whole mushroom. I finished all of the mushroom caps, but was grateful that I didn’t have to eat more and it seemed likely I would have hit the ‘ol mushroom threshold fairly soon.

I think there is something to be said for having to tear a mushroom apart that doesn’t help the situation. When they’re sliced, I can put the whole thing in my mouth and get to work, but when they’re whole I have to actually take a bite out of it which is surprisingly harder and reinforces those ideas out there that it’s essentially about everything but the taste when it comes to food aversion. In this case not only was it texture, but also the visual as I couldn’t pop it in and try to forget about it. Oh no. These suckers take two to three bites. Two to three bites where I have to look at the mushroom casualty between attempts to ingest. Not a pretty sight for me.

Today’s Fungus Feast:

Stuffed Mushrooms – white button mushroom caps, cream cheese, rosemary, lemon, garlic,  and cocktail shrimp