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MUSHROOMS and ME

Mushrooms may not seem a great subject to write about - particularly when you realise that I know nothing about them.

But mushrooms are symbolic in my life.

Let me start by saying that I cannot tell one from another. I don't know which are poisonous, which are "Magic" and which are edible. So here comes what I will call my first mushroom concept. Mushrooms equal trust.

When you buy mushrooms from a market gardener, trader or shop you trust the shopkeeper that he or she is not selling you anything poisonous. You accept that they have greater knowledge of mushrooms than you.

But the point of these ramblings is to explain that Mushrooms taught me maturity and that's my second and major concept.

As I child I hated mushrooms. The mere thought of them - be it big black ones or small button ones - languishing on a plate of fried breakfast was enough to have me hurtling to the safety of my mushroom-free bedroom.

I couldn't abide them. I don't ever remember tasting them. The look was enough. Whether I had heard that they could be poisonous and was worried for the safety of my stomach, I don't know. I just couldn't face them.

The interim years between boyhood and growing up were no different. My life was a mushroom free zone well into my 20s. Then I got married. My dear wife took no truck with those who wouldn't eat everything put on their plate. Requests for no cabbage, no rice, no cauliflower no sprouts and definitely NO MUSHROOMS fell on deaf ears.

I can't remember where or when my first mushroom was eaten. But suddenly I felt liberated. Yes I liked them. And as my life has continued I have become more and more attached to them - particularly when cooked in garlic. I feel like shouting it to the world "I Love Mushrooms." But that would be missing the point that I am making.

Mushrooms to me represent my adolescent years. I don't remember being rebellious. I don't remember being anti adults or anti authority. My refusal to eat mushrooms was my rebellion, however. I refused to keep an open mind. I know this because when I actually tried them I enjoyed the experience. Now I eat as many as possible.

So, looking back, I can only assume that mushrooms stood for my immaturity. When I "grew up" and became mature I liked them. There were no longer any barriers to prevent me from eating them. I was willing to give them a try.

That's where the maturity comes in. How many times as a youngster do we refuse to do something out of blind prejudice, without any facts to back up those prejudices. We just will not try - we have made our minds up based on nothing other than ignorance. And how often as somebody tries to get us to wise-up to the situation do we dig our heels in and become even more obnoxious and aggressive?

Taken on throughout your life this kind of attitude can lead to arrogance and blind prejudice. Those who open their eyes and throw off their prejudices grow in maturity. My life has been enriched by mushrooms - need I say more.

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