Thursday, March 30, 2006

On To the Important Subject of Mushrooms

As Chesterton once said that every subject was worthy of notice. Or something like that. I noticed that Dave Beresford believes this, as well. His latest column ("The Flying Inn" --dangerously close to another columnist's title of "The Flying Stars" don't you think?) was all about mushrooms.

Now, my opinion on mushrooms is that: I never pick them, I never cook them, I will on occasion eat them (if served by a relative whose feelings might be hurt if I refuse), however, I cannot get this one sentence my husband once uttered out of my mind when I think about mushrooms.

What did he say, you ask?

"Why should I eat fungus?" he said.

It *IS* amazing that some fungus can, indeed, be eaten. And even more amazing is the process by which man discovered that some fungus could be eaten. There must be "mushroom martyrs" out there, people who have given their lives to the discovery of poisonous mushrooms, so that we, who live in the present, could not eat those, but the other ones that are not poisonous.

Dave's experience shows that if you do pick and eat mushrooms, you have to know what you are doing. Since it is not a goal in life of mine to become a mushroom expert, I leave that to others, and try as best I can to avoid fungus.

I think mushrooms deserve a poem, any takers? Maybe even a Clerihew?


  1. Tasty Morels,
    Shaped like white bells.
    Fe Fi Fo Fum!
    They taste good in my tum-tum.*

    *Strictly speaking, not a true Clerihew, since it's not about a person, but a mushroom.

  2. You could make a Clerihew by plantothomorphizing.

    A rainy morning and Mr. Mushroom
    Kissed his baby in the shushroom
    Baby cried and spores did fly
    And Mrs. now must comfort try.

    Huh?! Not bad for 4am!

  3. You have my permission to put it in Gilbert, if that sort of plantopomorphize is allowed, that is.

  4. The Truffle is an idle sort,
    But charming in his way;
    For oft with pigs he will consort
    To liven up his day.

    Shitake rides in frightful
    Like a banshee from the east,
    But his mien is quite delightful,
    And his presence makes a feast.

    The portly Portobello
    Is a hearty, booming lad;
    His wine-wrung song is mellow,
    Though he is in dullness clad.

    These gentlemen are gracious,
    For they do not raise a fuss:
    We lob off their heads, voracious,
    And they doff their hats to us.

  5. With the mention of "fungus" one's Chestertonian mind naturally springs to the botanical entity which is known as saccaromyces cerevesiae - sometimes approximated in English as the "sugar-loving beer-fungus".

    This great gift of God is known as another name, which we shall shortly be pondering as we draw ever closer to that holiest of times, when we remember...

    Yes, I mean yeast, which is also called leaven. The Greeks called it "zyme" - the strange action it had on certain things gave rise (pun intended!) to another word, for the "something" that was "in yeast": enzyme.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  6. Dr. T, as usual, brings clarity to the issue, and of course provides the perfect answer to Nancy's husband. "Why should I eat fungus?" he asked. Because the blessings of God are often hidden in mundane things.

    What is the "something" that is "in yeast?

    Nancy, I do not think it would be allowed, alas, because a proper clerihew has to be about someone. No plantopomorphizing allowed.

  7. The "something" as Dr. T stated, is enzyme. Now, are you asking which enzyme?

    Dr. T: Beer loving? I thought beer went with hopps or something like that. Does it take beer to make yeast? Or does it take yeast to make beer?

  8. Furor: Great Poem! Wonderful. I enjoyed it.

  9. Thank you, Nancy. It's a genre with basically limitless possibilities. I've done similar pieces about hats and shellfish.

  10. Just for reference, it takes yeast to make beer. And it's "sugar-loving" - maybe it would be more accurate to say "sugar-fungus of beer" - or maybe "for beer" ? Where are all those Latinists when you need them!

    The idea of "enzyme" (something in yeast) was the idea that something in a living thing had the ability to act as a "catalyst" - that is, cause some chemical reaction to proceed without itself being consumed or destroyed. The idea was the transformation from sugar to beer - well, actually in that case, alcohol. It was later learned that the action was a little more complex, but the term stuck.

    Speaking as a computer scientist, the really humorous thing about enzymes is their identification code - the bio people use what we call IP addresses. For example, since we were just talking about beer, I will tell you that the enzyme called "alcohol dehydrogenase" is labelled as

    Hee hee. I have a gigantic chart of metabolism hanging up at work, and I tell visitors I get all my ideas from it. (And I do. Why should I not use the designs of the Best and Greatest Designer? More on that another day, over on my own blogg.)

    Sorry I do not have time for a poem at the moment; I was please to read Furor's, which was quite good. Maybe our Chestertonian ought to do a versicle on "Hop Low" - who, I believe, was a Chinese mushroom in the Nutcracker animation...

  11. Yeah, I was going to ask Furor if he'd like to submit that to the Magazine, but forgot. It was very good. Furor, may we publish it in Gilbert Mag?

    Sorry, Dr. T, but I just had a hard time making sense out of your sentence above. Now I get it (I was tired). Nancy, there are four main ingredients in beer: water, malted barley (sometimes other grains too, like wheat), hops, and yeast, the "sugar loving beer fungus." The function of water is obviouis. The malted barley gives beer its color, influences the flavor, and gives it its body. The hops act as a seasoning, in both senses of the term: both influencing flavor and acting as a preservative. Hops also influence the always-important head retention.

    But yeast is the most important ingredient. It is what makes beer beer. Yeast's function in beer (and wine, and spirits) wasn't fully undertood until Louis Pasteur studied it. In fact, the German Reinheitsgebot (literally, "purity law") of 1516, the world's oldest consumer protection law, doesn't even mention yeast. But brewers always knew that smelly slurry that was cast off at the end of the fermentation process (with part of it being saved for the next batch) was important for something.

    Unfermented beer is called wort (pronounced "wert"). Yeast, which IS a fungus, reacts with the suger, feeding off of it, reproducing at an alarming rate and giving off two main things: carbon dioxide and alcohol. It gives off many different kinds of alcohols, only a few of which are actually intoxicating. The rest influence the flavor of beer. And active yeast can give off thousands of flavor compounds.

    During the first or "primary" fermentation, the gas is allowed to escape. It may even blow off during a second stage fermentation. But at some point it must be sealed up tight, and the now dormant yeast kickstarted with the addition of a new sugar adjunct (such as unfermented wort), to being the "conditioning" stage, either in a keg or even in bottles (many "microbrews" are bottle conditioned, and homebrewers do it too).

    As with any branch of science, when you study brewing at a detailed, molecular level, it, as Dr. T. would appreciate, reveals the sublime elegance of the Greatest Designer. No true brewer can be an atheist (though I suppose the perpetrators of Buttwiper and other national brands make a go of it).

  12. Well, they are "living off their Catholic Capital"... Pasteur was a Catholic. Lots of atheists are trying to be scientists too.

    Say, "C" - this would make an excellent article... there's so much to say about beer!

    "We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them." Got some of both... now all I need is some cold pheasant. hee hee.

    RE poetry: maybe another day I will do one about beer. And no, I never write clerihews.

    Hop Low
    Wouldn't go
    Into a bar (I don't know why)
    He was a fun guy.

    Hop Low
    Wanted to go
    Into a bar; thankfully, one was near:
    he was a "cousin" of beer.

    Hop Low
    Didn't know
    What to eat
    After his nutcracker sweet.

    (Man I sure could use a beer.)

  13. "We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them." Got some of both... now all I need is some cold pheasant. hee hee.

    Speaking of cold pheasant (a good thing) and burgundy (a spanking good thing!) I am roasting a goose tomorrow. Why? I've wanted to do one ever since reading a sumptuous article about roast goose in the newspaper. My local grocery store had them for cheap, so now I am roasting a goose. Yes, I know it is during Lent, but tomorrow also is the first anniversary of JPII's death, meaning it will be his feast day if and when he is ever canonized. So roast goose it is.

    Accompanying the goose shall be pinot noir, which is basically burgundy. Or so the friendly lady in the snobby wine shop told me once. :-)

    An article about beer...hmm... better let that idea ferment for a bit. ;-)

    great poem!

  14. If clerihews can only be about people, what's with the clerihews (I think they are; frankly I know sonnets, ballades and haiku, and that's it) about drinks in Flying Inn?
    Tea, though an Oriental
    Is a gentleman, at least
    Etc. etc.

    Is that a clerihew? Doesn't it just mean you have to anthropomorphize anything you're going to write a clarihew about, except people?
    And it's easy not to get poisoned by mushrooms if you buy them from people who buy them from the people who grew them. They're called 'grocers,' and though Humphrey Pump hates them, they serve a purpose.
    Even grocers may have a role to play before the end. Sober thought.


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