Curiosity killed… your liver?

Oh, my!  

Well… sometimes accidents happen.  Speaking hypothetically, of course, what would you do if you were to have, say, 4lbs of mushrooms?  Not the regular ‘ole gringo-white button mushrooms, or something tasty and manageable like portabellas, but 4lbs or random, woody, funky-looking fungi?

One of the hazards of living in another culture and in another language is that misunderstandings happen.  Yesterday, I happened to have one of those “misunderstandings” while shopping for groceries.  I had taken the morning off and gone to La Merced, a massive maze of intertwined warehouses covering many square blocks and forming the largest market in the city.  The market, itself, is the collection of (what may be) thousands of separate vendors, selling everything you can imagine…. from tortillas, to plastic coat hangers, to herbal medicines, to dried chilis, to, well…. fungi.

I had gone to the market to purchase a few random necessities, mostly dry goods (such as a pound of oregano!), but a particular produce vendor caught my eye.  In his small little corner, laid out in a long row of assorted baskets, were a cornucopia of bizarre, foreign, and intriguing mushrooms.  I must admit, I was too curious to not inquire… but similarly I wondered how safe it might be to sample random mushrooms from a stall not too far from a vendor who offered candles designed to “matar a sus enemigos.”  

So… as any keen mushroomologist would do, I asked the vendor, a middle-aged gentleman, for his opinion about a particularly stemmy-looking blob and something that might have been a morel.  His responses, “con pollo” and “para la sopa” were enough to convince me that these might be worth experimenting with in the kitchen.  So, I asked him for 10 pesos of each one (“diez pesos de cada uno”) and, like the distractable gringo that I am, promptly had my attention hijacked by a quesadilla vendor around the corner.  (What?!?  I was hungry!)  

When I turned back to my impending purchase, I saw a massive mound comprised of each of the mushrooms from the many baskets, heaped together on his antique scale.  Not just two, mind you, but at least seven or eight of the varieties!  And the vendor, of course, was reaching for the rest.  Having realized my two errors (both communicative, and then not paying attention), I quickly told him no more….  But looking at the towering stack, I realized it might be a little too late to send those that had already been commingled, back.  They were, after all, mixed together in a massive pile of mushroomness.  I was also, I admit, a little too embarrassed to ask!

So that’s how I happened to acquire a pile of strange mushrooms.  So what would you do?  I ended up making a large batch of soup.  It actually turned out alright… though I had to pick out the stems, and pieces of bark, small insects, an earthworm(!), pine needles…. but it definitely needs a little work.

Of course, after partially enjoying the fruits of my error, I’m now struck with the thought that, if the vendor “misunderstood” my order (either intentionally or not), who is to say that I might also be shopping for a new liver in the near future (a thought I am quickly trying to put out of mind!)?  Well, if I do survive long enough to post again, then perhaps I’ll also try working on another batch of soup.  And perhaps the recipe for the second batch will be good enough to share online.

 

México, D.F.

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