From lattes to lamps, the mushrooms to come from America
When I was growing up in the 90s the only mushroom I had time for was Toad, Princess Peach’s staunch servant and by far the best character in Mario Kart. I thought the real thing, the mushroom that my mother insisted on hiding in the bolognese, carbonara and stir-fries, was downright wild. Spongy, dirty and disturbing. Fast forward a few decades and the scales have shifted. Not only do I eat mushrooms every day – lovingly misting yellow oysters growing from a creepy bag above my fridge and tossing my morning coffee with a reishi-cocoa blend – but it seems like everything. outside mushrooms are also growing from my kitchen.
They dominate my social media feed; take over the beauty and wellness industries; inspiring various books, exhibits, kitschy posters, trendy foraging shoots and adorable home items; providing, thanks to their unique structure and chemical properties, the ideal building blocks for everything from home insulation to faux leather; and be seen as ecological saviors sent to transform the way we manufacture, consume and live. And yes, psychedelics are also becoming mainstream – reports show millennials are pulling back from the culture of binge drinking in favor of microdosing small amounts of psilocybin in the name of self-care. If I knew anything about “the stock market” I would put all my money in the mushrooms. (Okay, and those cute little robots that deliver food right to your door. Those are going to be fat.)
Of course, mushrooms have been around forever. In fact, we share a common evolutionary story – a branch of the family tree that drifted away from plants “maybe 1.1 billion years ago,” Natalie Angier wrote for The New York Times in 1993. A researcher cited in the article said that is why fungal diseases are so troublesome to treat. “Much of the metabolism is so similar that you can’t target a fungus enough without severely affecting the human host as well,” said Mitchell L. Sogin, Ph.D., of the Center for Molecular Evolution at the Marine Biological Laboratory. . So basically we are fungi and fungi are us and this nail fungus will torment you for years to come. Crazy!
While mushrooms have long been prized in other cultures, many non-native Westerners are only waking up to them. “For the past 70 years or so, America has been incredibly mycophobic,” says Gordon Walker, Ph.D., the mycologist behind @FascinatedByFungi, a TikTok account dedicated to the excitement of its 778,000 subscribers. “I think a lot of this dates back to WWII when we lost a lot of our immigrant food cultures to the great laundering of American food, which took place at the expense of local food systems. but for the benefit of national processing companies. ” As food was industrialized and optimized for speed, affordability, and ease of manufacture, buns, TV dinners, and spam boxes pushed fresh produce to the collective periphery. Mushrooms are perhaps particularly out of favor because they have long been viewed as objects of fear.
“It’s always been like, ‘Eeewww, [mushrooms], ‘”Said chef, writer and TV host Sophia Roe. “Like, it’s these phallic things that represent death and rot and mold, none of which is really bad.” But an influx of books, YouTube channels, and social accounts like Walker’s that are giving us more information about mushrooms than ever before. “People were very suspicious of mushrooms because eating the wrong one could easily kill or make you sick,” says Gina Rae La Cerva, geographer, environmental anthropologist and author of Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Wild Food. “Now you can practically take a photo with your phone and identify something, even if you’re in the middle of nowhere. “