Mushrooms at work

It’s been raining here in Mississippi, and judging by the scene outside my office this morning, Mississippi mushrooms like rain. Overnight, a lovely fungal array had sprouted.

My interest in mushrooms generally extends only as far as a frying pan with butter in it. In risotto, omelettes or soup, mushrooms are my friends. Sometimes I fricassee them with Madeira or Port and pour the result over polenta.

But I want no part of mushrooms that grow in my yard or the strip of grass next to my workplace parking lot. Wild mushrooms will kill a man, and I don’t have the bandwidth to learn which ones won’t. As far as I know, “red on yellow kills a fellow” applies to coral snakes but not to mushrooms. Or is it black on yellow? A while back I attended a talk in a New Orleans art gallery by a man who professed to be something called an ethnomycologist. He, presumably, knows which mushrooms have value in the skillet and which will send you straight into convulsions, sterility and blindness. But I don’t.

Most of the time, anyway, backyard mushrooms aren’t much to look at. They’re usually gray cardboard saucers such as a child might cut out with those round-ended scissors they give to little kids.

This morning’s mushrooms, however, were far from uninteresting. There were nubby ones, spindly ones and lacey ones. One of them looked like a birdbath, its top flat and its underside convex. The color palette ranged from rich taupe to mocha to pumpkin.

The allure of the workplace mushrooms did not extend to the realm of temptation. I didn’t wonder how they might taste. But I liked looking at them.

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