Mushrooms! I do not know why I like them. As a rule, cooking and I aren’t exactly the best of friends. But, mushrooms are a different deal altogether! I do not remember the impulse that made me buy my first box of mushrooms…maybe it was overhearing my collegue talk about portobello mushrooms…it sounded so quaint and Italian, reminding one of endless summer days.

As was usual those days, Mom would be the first to know of these experiments, since it was her to whom I went…”Mom, I bought this from the supermarket…what do I do with it?” Mom wasn’t too happy about mushrooms, since there’s no saying if the poisonous ones made it in…or with  age if any of these could be come poisonous! Thus, her advice of rubbing them in turmeric before cooking them. My portobello mushroom colleague had also mentioned that mushrooms give out water as they are cooked…and armed with all this information, I made my first mushroom masala curry, and and voila, was hooked, for life!

Cooking non-vegetarian food is an arena I’ve strayed into purely for the novelty of it, restricting myself to fish and chicken. But eating non-vegetarian food, now that’s an arena I can’t get enough of! And that’s where mushrooms stepped in to bridge the divide! It tastes so unlike the wimpy veggies I cook, AND they are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D!!!! Yippee!

After moving to Chennai, the greatest tragedy after the non-availbility of a coffee vending machine within 10 feet of my office desk was the fact that I couldn’t find a single supermarket that sold mushrooms! Even after I trudged all the way to Food Bazaar in EA mall!  And they didn’t have baby corn either!! Google threw me loads of sites that cultivated mushrooms. (So, there ARE questions that Google can’t answer 🙂 As a last ditch attempt, I went on Facebook, which got me a response that Heritage Foods India limited is where a cousin of mine gets her mushrooms from…I knew there weren’t any such outlets nearby, and quietly decided to accept the fact that separation from my favourite fungus was inevitable and braced myself for the bland fungii-less life ahead.

And that’s when it happened! On a Sunday evening, tired and in an attempt to while away the time till I got my dinner parcelled, I stepped in to the Spencers behind the Chromepet bus stand to get my newest friend, a packet of Tang. Getting late, the staff were putting off the airconditioner and lights as I reached the checkout counter. Not one to generally survey my surroundings, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw packets of button mushrooms stacked at the side of the checkout counter . Button Mushrooms!! MUSHROOMS!! If I were a ballerina, I’d have pirouetted all over the tightly packed supermarket…but, I just picked one up incredulously and thankful ofcourse, for God so wonderfully arranging this miracle 🙂 (Yes, it is true…God does care about what I think and want, and does surprise us, just when the time is right.)

Back home, unable to contain my excitement, the next evening, the cutting and squashing began in earnest. The powercut did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. The mushroom masala continued to take shape under candlelight. I would like to announce it as a grand success, but, I just learnt that the Button Mushrooms grown in the Nilgiris don’t necessarily behave like the mushrooms grown in Maharastra. These didn’t shrink as it cooked, nor gave out much water…which left them slightly undercooked. It needs a lot more salt too, but otherwise, it’s back to the good old days, when all was well with the mushroomed world, maybe even better, as I’ve just discovered the flavour bomb – the coriander leaf!

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