JN48: The world is a morel mushroom…with maggots

My friends,

I’ve just escaped from a three-day board retreat in Virginia, and my sanity and faith in humanity has really been frazzled. Virginia is pretty, with verdant deciduous trees and colonial-style houses. Why, walking down the street, you could almost hear the sound of Paul Revere’s horse galloping down the cobble-stoned paths, warning of the British’s coming. And in the distance you can hear the terrifying sound of the Brits as they came: “Looky, you just take the lift to get to the bog, and Bob’s your uncle.”

But I didn’t get much time to see Virginia, due to three hellish days of board meetings, where it became clear to me that the organization is in serious trouble, and that I will probably have to once again launch a revolution, like the one the freed America from the Brits (“Cor Blimey, Stevens, rotate anti-clockwise or you’ll blodge the whole pudding!”). All the while, I was praying that nothing would happen to my new office equipment, or to my car, or to my flat-panel TV after the office break-in.

That’s why I want to talk to you about morel mushrooms. Now, you may be thinking, “What the hell do morel mushrooms have to do with anything?” Every Spring, I go to the farmer’s market, eagerly anticipating the morels, which look like this:


photo by Pamela Kaminski

They are expensive because they cannot be grown, only harvested from the forest. Some will only grow after a forest fire. Last Sunday, after going week after week and being disappointed, there they were. Jameelah and I bought a pound for $20. They were beautiful, smelling of the earth, of the forest, of gym socks, but in a good way. I was giddier than a Japanese school girl with a new weeping panda backpack. I took them home and threw them in a bowl of cold water, anticipating savoring them sautéed in olive oil and garlic and served over microwaved pasta, with a glass of Jack and Coke, the epitome of culinary elegance.

Then, to my horrors, little white larvae—tiny little worms—started wriggling out of them. Not many, but enough to make me queasy. They fell to the bottom of the water, where they drowned. But still, they were there. It was sickening to think that morels, one of the most delicious things on earth, are tainted by the presence of disgusting little worms. I had to think about whether I wanted to eat them still.

After several week of horrible luck, I’ve come to realize that the world is like those morels. Delicious, but home to occasional worms. Incompetent, selfish people are always present in the morels of life. It is discouraging to think that the things that we do to try to make the world a delicious plate of pasta with sautéed wild mushrooms, can be undone by little wriggling worms of ego and ineptitude.

So, what did I do with the mushrooms, you ask? Throw them out? Hell no. They’re fricken $20 bucks a pound. I soaked them in salt water, rinsed them, then sautéed them as planned. While eating, I tried not to think of what else were in them. I remembered last year, I just used a mushroom brush instead of submerging the morels in salt water. Now I realize that I probably ate a dozen of those little worms without knowing. The mushrooms were delicious last year…and I wonder if it was because I was ignorant, or because the worms added flavor. Maybe that’s it. Maybe the morels are delicious because of the worms.

So perhaps all the crazy break-ins of my office, of my car, all the political scheming in nonprofits, the mutinies, the defense of insipidness, and that stupid Jack-in-the-Box “mini sirloin burger” commercial, all those add flavor to our world. I have no idea. It is past mid-night, and I am losing concentration. But this much I know: However how much awfulness there is in our world, no matter how much craziness, at least we don’t have to talk like the British (“Sweet fanny Adams, why all the slagging?”).

16 Responses to JN48: The world is a morel mushroom…with maggots

  1. AndyintheUK says:

    Huy, the advancing Brits are unlikely, in 1775, to be crying ‘Bob’s your uncle’ (however fitting that exclamation may have been at the time); the phrase first appearing in 1887. It’s more likely that the galloping Mr Revere was chanting something along the lines of: ‘Shucks, ma fanny pack is sure chafing ma pants – it sucks, man’. It’s a shame we Brits didn’t have the prescience to stamp out this nonsense before it took hold!

    • Andy, that is the WORST American accent impersonation ever! I’m insulted! Shucks, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re liberated from the tyranny of your monarchs, I would start plotting a revolution!

  2. Dude, those were maggots: http://www.shroomery.org/5283/Dealing-with-Mushroom-Flies

    Also, good tips on preparing your mushrooms so next time you don’t encounter any “bugs”: http://www.thegreatmorel.com/faq.html ( see the preparing section )

    And about your travails: Think of the bad people not as the worms, but rather think the badness itself is the worms, present in each of the mushrooms who are the people. We bring the goodness ( i.e. the yumminess of the morel ) and the evil ( the worms ) with us everywhere. In some other circumstance, you could be the worm and they the mushroom. So yeah, I dunno where I was going, but that’s what I was thinking. Hope it helps. BYE!

    • Dude, that’s…really profound, the idea that we each of us instrinsically carry both good and evil within us, and that we choose at different times to follow either path. That’s insightful. You must be on Shrooms…

  3. Paul says:

    I hope you’re teaching [your afterschool program] students that Paul Revere’s ride was in Massachusetts, not Virginia. (I think it’s Santa Claus who is from Virginia.) That minor point aside, I totally agree that a few worms (or maggots) don’t mean that the whole mushroom is bad (but I would compost them, even at $20/pound).

    • Paul, apparently from the links that Ngoc-Huong posted in his comment, it is common for mushrooms to contain some insects. Bathing them in bath water for a few minutes usually gets rid of the cheeky buggers. Still, I think I’ll just stick to potato chips and pasta from now on. No bugs on them ever.

  4. Chev says:

    I LOVE mushrooms. Thanks for making me unable to eat them ever…..for a week.

  5. jessie hart says:

    they are not bad thats why u soak them in salt water to kill the bugs

    • Thanks, Jessie. Last time I had them, I think we soaked them too long (overnight) or used the wrong kind of salt or something. They came out tasting extremely gritty, almost like they were filled with sand. They were practically inedible. I ate them anyway. At 20 bucks a pound, you can’t afford to throw them away!

  6. jessie hart says:

    the taste is unreal i love them!!!!!

  7. Deborah says:

    Correction: I grew up in Iowa and every year we’d find Morel mushrooms growing all over the place! We never soaked them… just plopped them into some hot (REAL), home-made butter and sauteed! They are delicious! I can’t figure out why they are so expensive. I’ve seen them go for as much as $30 for 2 oz! And you CAN grow them, with spawn. They sell kits to get you started.

  8. Deborah says:

    I meant to say “spores” Sorry…

    • Deborah, you found morels popping up everywhere? that’s not fair! I think those kits don’t work very well, or take several years before the first crop of mushrooms appear. That’s why they’re always ridiculously expensive.

  9. monica says:

    lol ur funny lady….ur suppose to soak in water so the bugs that have made the mushroom a home move out..lol…they are so goood..the mushrooms that is…..after bebugging in a water bath for a few hours:S

  10. Etta says:

    Hey. 2009 I found 300 morels. I dried them. Then I placed all the morels in non airtight plastic bag. Result all the morels had a moldy green color. I placed them in water where all tiny wriggling white worms appeared. Needless to say I through them in the woods. End.

  11. Jeremiah says:

    That is why to the people that truly know morel mushrooms and hunt them, know that you must soak them in waster at least we even add salt to coax the little parasites out. Also not rocket science to figure out that when you cook them in hot oil or even boil them in water your worms and parasites will be no more. This is why only people who know them should eat these. If you get squeamish by bugs this is not your mushroom to eat. I only posted this to keep you from scaring people away from them, very easy fix if that is what you are worried about.

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