Sight - My mushroom aversion

Sight - My mushroom aversion

By
Chui Lee Luk
Contains
4 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742702407
Photographer
Chris Chen

Fungi and mushrooms seemed to grow in abundance around our home in Sandakan. They grew wherever I wandered, over rotting organic material, in the niches and recesses of structures and over the trunks of larger living plants. Grotesque shapes of orange and red popped out of tree trunks. Brown orbs might puff out a cloud of yellow powder when poked. Frilled caps and shapes aligned in an abundant collection following some sort of other-worldly order. These living things operated according to a logic of their own that I tried in vain to understand. They were thrilling to look at, prod at; curiosities to be dismantled and examined. So, in my head, the grotesquery of fungi and mushrooms was something to be observed and marvelled at. There was a repulsiveness about their appearance and they seemed slippery and viscous by nature. And, to my surprise, at home, I was expected to eat them?

The mushrooms we usually ate were dried shiitakes. In their plastic packaging (from extra-ordinary locales such as Hong Kong, China or Japan) they looked innocuous enough, like inactive elements. I liked scrunching up their plastic casing and peering at them in their dried-out and dusty-looking state. However, when reconstituted, those same entities transformed and took on a different demeanour. They had stems and gills and a certain glossy animation, which put me in mind of the fungi I tortuously examined on my wanderings. They were often featured in dishes that emphasised the viscosity in their nature, their slippery smoothness. In their cooked form they smelt amazing and alien, but I was still confounded by the repulsion I had for their appearance.

Revelation came soon enough (‘everything in its own time’ is perhaps a way to describe the development of my taste and gradual surrender to mature people’s predilections). I recall being ill with some sort of bug that left me weak in bed, and subject to the blandest of foods. It happened late one evening; I had recovered some strength and wandered into the kitchen for something more substantial or exciting to eat and happened on the remnants of a family feast I’d missed. One of the mysterious delicacies that had fed my imaginings about the shiitake was a fragrant dish of slow-cooked chicken and shiitake with copious amounts of ginger. On this particular evening hunger led to an abandonment of my usual risk avoidance and the remnants of illness clouded my judgement ... I took the chance to pick at the mushrooms.

And, honestly, they weren’t that bad: I survived to relive the memory here.

Recipes in this Chapter

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