Strange Foods Pt.2: Morel's and why don't I eat them anymore

I love mushrooms.

During my time in UCSC you would think I would pop psychedelics on a bi-weekly basis— but no. Not those kinds.

Strange enough, there are a couple of types I cringe away from, some being the mini cocktail and oyster mushroom (believe me, there is such a thing as something tasting too earthy).

But regardless of my palate preferences, I love the biology of mushrooms, and I loved to forgo studying and nose dive into deep wiki-holes about everything mycology. It was one of those hyper-fixations that never really left. Instead, my mycology hobby grew to the point where I was pretty obsessed with trying the uncommon varieties of fungi.

The first time I heard about the morchella was in highschool after reading through The Road by Cormac McCarthy. (side note: if you want to fall into a pit of depression at the drop of a pin and re-evaluate your moral compass, this post apocalyptic novel may just be the thing for you). Basically the narrator and his son scavenge for food near their base camp. Fortunately, they were able to find a handful of morels sprouting from the ground.

The excerpt went like this:

What is it, Papa?
It’s morels.
What’s morels?
They’re a kind of mushroom.
Can you eat them?
Yes. Take a bite.
Are they good?
Take a bite.
The boy smelled the mushroom and bit into it and stood chewing. 
He looked at his father. 
These are pretty good, he said.

Curious about anything food related, I looked up said shroom and stared at the image perplexed. This definitely wasn't your basic button mushroom you could find at your local Safeway.

The fungi itself is organic shaped, narrow and squishy and full of holes that would make trypophobic person a little squeamish. I've never seen something so oddly shaped in my life, so of course I made it my goal to try it.

Image result for morel mushroom stock photo

If you live around SF, you can get these bad boys here. 

One thing to note about these tasty morsels, are they're pretty uncommon. They're incredibly hard to cultivate. If you ever feel an itch to go shroom scavenging, they sometimes grow beneath dead elm trees or apple orchards. The deeper into the forest you go, the better chance you'll find em. 

Unfortunately, the last time I checked, the closest thing to a forest around SF is Golden Gate Park. And from my experience, people tend to offer you a different kind of mushroom there. 

I was stoked to find them at the bougie Ferry Building market places, tucked in the corner of a counter service store. They were $10 for a small box, expensive, but not expensive enough to stop my curiosity. 

From all the websites and videos I've looked at, they described the taste as being the most meat-like organic thing you can put in your mouth without it actually being made of meat. Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but the comments piqued my interest anyway. 

A lot of regular morel eaters say the best way to cook it was sauteed with a little butter, being myself, I didn't listen. I dredged the damn thing with egg and flour, creating a very oily and unpleasant fried concoction. I could barely taste the morel underneath all it's floured up glory.

Second time around, I listened. I had to do a double take on the taste testing, it tasted like meat, but the texture still had that familiar soft spongy feel. The morel itself tasted like it was simmering in beef juice, as if it's spent hours relaxing in a nice big beef Jacuzzi pot. I had an odd mixture of amazement by the flavor, and confusion as to where the flavor was coming from. Of course, the taste of morel can't emulate beef to a T, but it did a pretty damn good job without adding any other ingredient besides butter.

Morels became somewhat of a monthly treat for me, they were always delicious, and always put that little je ne sais quoi in whatever I was cooking.

I'd start off with half a bag, and cook the other half the next day.

One day, I forgot about the other half of the bag.

Three days in the fridge, big deal right? They're refrigerated, if they smell bad I'll just throw it out right?


Here's the thing about those little holey bastards. Apparently, their honeycomb like structure make great burrows for eggs to hibernate in. In fact, seasoned morel consumers suggest to hang the fungi upside down for a day or two, just in case any insect eggs decided to stow away in there.

Whether it be from sheer misfortune, or karma due to the act of me screwing around with every last one of my trypophobic friends, I was greeted to an array of something wriggling in there. I didn't stare long enough to find out what it was.

Queue me placing the infested bag of mushrooms on my kitchen table while nope-ing the fuck outta there.

One part of me wants to shrug it off, tell myself it's just extra protein. The other half died a little that day, knowing that I was probably consuming half ripe insect eggs for the past week.

Needless to say, I've grown a pretty big aversion to Morels. It still gives me unpleasant flashbacks of what I saw in that innocent looking brown paper bag.

Shame really. They were so damn tasty. :'(


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