Saturday, July 14, 2007

Matango: The Forbidden Fungus 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comTwice a week there is a farmer's market right across the street from the library where you can really take in all the mind boggling, year round bounty of this state. At the market there is a mushroom stand with which I have a wary fascination. The people who work there remind me of members of some aging hippie biker cult/commune from the sixties that never disbanded. They all have a similar look: heavily tattooed, middle aged and leathery and brown as the dried shitakes they sell.

They offer an astounding variety of mushrooms, many of which I have never seen before. There are ones that looks like boar’s tusks, or delicate white lace, or like little white golf tees, or sea sponges or honeycombs. There is one electric orange variety that screams POISON/DEATH/TOADSTOOL to me. I hope these people know what their doing.

Actually, they must, because they are constantly sampling their own wares, nibbling or chewing on them like gum, squinting their eyes in appreciation while they assist customers. They often speak to their customers through a mouth crammed with mushrooms, which I guess is the highest of endorsements.

The other week I saw a bowl of what looked like cleaned little squirrel brains. I asked one of the employees, who had just reached into the bowl with his dirt encrusted fingernails and popped one in his mouth, what kind of mushroom they were.

He chewed with quick, sideways motions like a grasshopper.




“OK. Never mind. I’ll take a bag.”

How do I prepare them?

He swallowed. “Sautee them in butter.”

"How do I fix these morels?" I pointed to another bowl.

“Sautee them in butter.”

“And these?” gesturing to what looked like a bowl of hairy tarantula abdomens.

“Sautee them in butter.”

He gave me a bag of the squirrel brains, crammed some more mushrooms in his mouth and wandered off, but not before turning his head back around.
“You better eat those soon, as in tonight – they’re about to turn.”

I threw them on the counter in the kitchen and forgot about them until the next morning when their smell brought them to my attention. When I bought them they had a slight earthy, musty odor. Now they smelled exactly like rotting fish, and sent me on a Proustian journey back to the time at summer camp when a brat whow lived across the lake tied a 20 pound catfish under the girl’s cabin, where it dangled putridly for days before the source of the odor was discovered. I looked in the bag and they had all disintegrated into a black mush. I couldn’t believe something that wasn’t animal based could reek like that. Mushrooms, flesh from the earth. Dirt meat.

One rainy Saturday afternoon long ago I watched an absolutely terrible Japanese horror film on the Creature Feature called Matango: Fungus of Terror. The lame plot involves some shipwreck survivors washing ashore of a mysterious island. They don’t have any food and the only only thing edible on the island seems to be mushrooms. Although the captain warns them not to eat the plentiful mushrooms, the passangers eventually succumb and are transformed into these shuffling, walking toadstool monsters. Perhaps the movie is trying to say something deep about the mutating effects of radiation poisoning the food supply, but it's still a very silly movie.

Here is the trailer, with the theremin used to great effect.

I bet my little mushroom cult people have a thriving side business selling psychedelic product on the side. The prospects of tripping on mushrooms seems too exhausting to consider at my age, but I do look back fondly on the many I have taken. Memories of the insights I gained and the profound feeling of interconnectivity I was awash with during my experience have sustained me through the years, and certainly warded off any long, dark nights of the soul. Looks like psychedlic mushrooms may have some unexpected medicinal uses in alleviating cluster and migraine headaches, depression and OCD.

Ooh, Foxy, that was a great trailer. I wonder if I can get that jewel on Netflix?
Foxy, I am enjoying your blog and this refernece to CF from here in Austin. I just started blogging last month. Yours is quite a role model of a blog!
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