Mushroom Real Estate

It is now Spring (huzzah!), which means the birds are out, the bees are singing and the flowers are buzzing. It also means that I have been able to flip over to a new picture on my lovely calendar. This month’s image? An illustration of a homely looking mushroom.

It’s got me thinking. Are mushrooms the most whimsical of vegetables? She looks up “mushroom” in the dictionary so as not to start one of those fruit vs vegetable vs funghi debates. My mistake, it’s not a vegetable. Rewind, rewind. Are mushrooms the most whimsical of items found in a supermarket’s fresh produce department? Not counting the ready-made salads?

I say this because in children’s literature, the mushroom often appears as a small shelter which fairies or other magical beings live under. It’s possibly not a smart choice of housing – everyone knows you’re not even meant to wash mushrooms before making a stir-fry – so I shudder to think what happens when it rains and you’re living underneath one. Soggy practicalities aside, the idea is cute.

But what’s so special about the humble mushroom? Other fresh foods don’t get this sort of aura placed on them. Except for green beans in “Jack and the Beanstalk”. And the memorable stonefruit that appears in “James and the Giant Peach”. Also not forgetting the slightly more obscure Mexican fairytale “Pedro and the Fortune-Telling Corn Kernel”.

It makes sense though, right? To make fruit and vegetables sound more edible to children? (Without tipping them off on the hallucinogenic properties of certain mushrooms). Because let’s face it, the humble mushroom is hideous. It’s brown, it has a creepy texture, and the dictionary description hardly does it justice:

mushroom |ˈmə sh ˌroōm; -ˌroŏm|noun
a fungal growth that typically takes the form of a domed cap on a stalk, often with gills on the underside of the cap.
So, it’s a fungal growth with gills. Risotto, anyone?
But my favourite use of the the mushroom is as a form of seating for toads. We’re led to believe that in amphibian bars, toads pull up their mushrooms (hence why they are called “toadstools”), order a drink or five and moan about how David Linhagen had affairs with their wives. In modern fairytales, this is where Prince Ryan Gosling shows up to the rescue and turns the toad into Steve Carrell.
It all sounds delightful until a toad spills his drink and his seat turns to mush…

2 Responses to “Mushroom Real Estate”

  1. 1 rachelgreggery September 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I’m loving having a good laugh 🙂 Thanks Wendy. Don’t stop writing!

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