The Fungus Among Us

Raise your hand if you like Mushrooms!

Now raise your hand if you don’t like mushrooms!

Hmm…I see we’re about half and half. Actually, I don’t see. This is the internet people. Put your hand down, silly.

Growing up, mushrooms were neither here nor there for me. I didn’t care if they were in my spaghetti sauce, but I didn’t really want to eat them sauteed and on my steak, exactly. The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate them. They’re pretty darn yummy sauteed, stuffed, in soups, or in sauces. But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I began to wonder if they have any nutritional value. I looked it up and learned that they did, in fact, have benefits.

“Mushrooms are brimming with protein, B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic), and minerals (selenium, potassium,and copper). They’re low in calories and may have antibacterial substances to help the body. Cooked fresh mushrooms offer the most nutritional benefit versus the canned version that may have more sodium.” (This is in quotes because I found it here. But you could google “Mushroom Benefits” and find scores of pages on it. The interwebs are full of info on ‘shrooms.)

I mention this because of lunch yesterday. But first, let me give you some background info. Tom doesn’t like mushrooms. He just doesn’t. They don’t appeal to him, and I’m ok with that. I always would sautee mushrooms and put them aside for those who like them when making a dish that they go well with. Then, in early January, we threw a party for our friends Jenn and Justin, who were moving away. And I made these foods. The dish behind the candles is full of stuffed mushrooms, a recipe I gleaned from The Pioneer Woman’s site. (ps, I love her. ) They were SO good. And the stuffing uses the stems from the mushrooms you stuff. When putting together the stuffing, I remember that they smelled excellent. SO delicious.

And I said to Tom, “Next time I make spaghetti, I’m going to make something like this to go in the sauce.” Tom said, “Okay.”  Tom’s not really concerned with what I do in the kitchen so long as it tastes good when I dish it up. So, not surprisingly, he forgot about it.

This Sunday, I decided we were having spaghetti. I love spaghetti. It’s so adaptable, making it pleasing for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. It can be made in huge quantities, making it perfect for large groups. It’s not that expensive to get the ingredients. It freezes well. And it’s delicious. It’s one of my “go-to” meals. I always (ALWAYS) use Prego for the sauce. I like the fresh mushroom version. And I always (unless there are vegetarians) brown up at least a pound of ground beef to put in the sauce. I always add garlic salt and Italian seasonings to taste. I always serve garlic bread. I always grate sharp cheddar cheese to go with it. I prefer angel hair pasta to spaghetti noodles. And I always have done mushrooms on the side. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, Tom came in the kitchen and said, “What is that? In the bowl?” Darn it. I hate when he walks into the kitchen and catches me right before I add something to the food I wasn’t going to tell him about until later. (Steaming veggies, pureeing them,  and adding them to dishes is one way I get healthy stuff into our diet.) What I had done was washed a package of sliced mushrooms, thrown them in the food processor, and pulsed it until they were chopped to itty-bitty pieces. Then I put some I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in a big pan, gotten it hot, and thrown in the mushrooms. After they cooked up a bit, I added in about 3/4ths cup of grated parmesan cheese and some white wine. I let that all cook up and then put it aside in a bowl until I was ready for it.

Then Tom spied it.

I told him what it was, and he came over and smelled it. (Let me just take a minute to say that half of Tom’s family is weird like this. His dad, his sister, him, our niece….they sniff everything. On one of our first dates, I caught him sniffing my hair. Thankfully, my shampoo smelled great. And I got teasing rights for quite some time. They also have this thing I  don’t quite get about “little and big” stuff. I’m curious to know if our kids will inherit this phenomenon.) SO, he sniffed it, and then I about died of shock. Because he straightened up and said, “Mmmmm..” I stared at him. Then I said, “It smells good?” (I got a “that’s what ‘Mmmm..’ means” look for this, and a “yep.”) I just never expected him to say “mmMmm” about mushrooms. So then I sniffed it. I smelled nothing. But then, I’ve been stuffed up a bit lately.

Eventually, I added this goodness to the sauce. I was a little worried…I mean, after tasting it, the mushroom flavor was infused throughout the sauce. It tasted great, but I wasn’t sure Tom would eat it. But I was in for another shock. After the spaghetti was served, Tom took a bite and said, “Good Gosh! SOOO good!” I continued to watch him for signs that the body snatchers had come. But I’m fairly sure it was really my husband. And he ate every last bite. It would appear that mushrooms, when the texture is removed due to the food processor, are something he enjoys. It was a hit in our household, so when it’s just our family, that’s how I’m making it from now on. Don’t worry, mushroom haters. If you eat here, I won’t do this to you.

If you don’t think you like mushrooms (or you have a friend or family member who doesn’t), but you do like spaghetti, try this. Let me know if you like it this way, please. I’m curious if the idea or the texture of a mushroom is more what drives people away than the flavor itself.

Here’s an equation I came up with to demonstrate my discovery:

{[(Mushrooms – Texture) + Butter Substitute] + Grated Parmesan Cheese + Wine}/Heat = Deliciousness

I hate math, but I love food. This is way better than Calculus. Trust me. Or find out for yourself.

~Meghan

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