Contribution writer Blaise Devane recounts her past dislike of mushrooms and how she learned to love the object of her childhood hatred.

While “all mushrooms are edible – but some only once” is a sage piece of advice, I think it’s time we loosen the restrictions a little bit. I’m not suggesting we all go out and take a bite out of the first mean looking, glowing mushroom we see in the forest, but the honourable chestnut, button, and shiitake mushrooms are begging for a second chance at redemption. 


Mushrooms often appear in my basket on my weekly pilgrimage to the supermarket, and if there’s any excuse to throw them into a recipe, I’ll take it. However, mushrooms and I weren’t always so tight. I recall grimacing my way through dinner after dinner, unable to excuse the strange texture I was faced with following each bite, praying I wouldn’t be rumbled for hiding them under my potatoes. As a relatively non-picky eater (apart from cauliflower cheese, I’d eat just about anything), mushrooms were leaving an ugly mark on my ‘great eater’ reputation. Thankfully, in the summer of 2013, everything changed.


Nearly every year during the school holidays, we would cram ourselves into the car and make the long journey down to Kerry to visit my great aunt Eva, and delight in a week of swimming, ice-creams, looking at donkeys, and waiting on the side of the road for someone to tow our car, which would inevitably break down. Auntie Eva was an excellent cook, and we could always count on being spoiled by a fabulous quiche and a perfect meringue at lunch. Now that I think of it, the only time I have ever enjoyed cauliflower cheese was when she made it. 


I’d like to think that I was in the good books with Auntie Eva, but once she caught wind that I didn’t like mushrooms, she made it her mission to convince me otherwise. There are some foods you just never forget trying for the first time – be it the salty, briny ooze of an oyster, or the face-altering bitterness of a lemon. For me, it was the humble mushroom. 


Bizarre as it may sound, all it took was one bite of finely diced, fried mushrooms on a soldier of buttery toast, prepared by my aunt, to win me over. It was delicious. For the first time, I could appreciate the taste of the mushrooms without solely focusing on the texture – and really enjoy it! Of course, there was an element of peer-pressure (try not to make a scene in your great aunt’s house), but I think a healthy amount of strong-worded convincing goes a long way into making somebody like a new vegetable. 


Since then, I’ve become a total mushroom person. There’s something very gratifying about transforming a food you once avoided at all costs into one you actively seek out – whether it’s mushrooms on pizza, with a full Irish breakfast, in a beef bourguignon, risotto, soup, stir fry, whatever. While no amount of convincing could ever win over some of us on the mushroom front, I think it’s worth trying (or retrying) new foods, if not to appease your aunt, then just for the thrill of it. That being said, exercise caution with mushrooms – trying the wrong kind could be your last thrill ever! 

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