October 08, 2007

Steve, Don't Eat It! - The Tree Brain

Over the last 4 years we've tracked the annual growth of fungus on the trees in front of my house, but the time for tracking was over. The time for chewing was here.

I was never interested in eating the Tree Brain because wild mushrooms can kill people. So I'm going to start off by saying: DO NOT EAT ANY MUSHROOMS YOU FIND GROWING IN THE WILD. I have no interest in being an accessory to your untimely death. Even if you think you've found a mushroom similar to mine, don't eat it. YOU WILL DIE. You'll be a dick and you'll die. So don't do it.

I'm serious. Pretend this is a PSA with a well-respected celebrity, such as -- I don't know... Jeremy Gelbwaks. And in the PSA he looks to camera and says "Hi, I'm TV's Jeremy Gelbwaks. You may know me better as the kid who was the first Chris Partridge on the Partridge Family. Don't eat mushrooms you find in the wild." And then off-camera we hear: "He's right." And, oh my God, it's BRIAN FORSTER, Chris Partridge #2! The two Chris's laugh, high-five and we're all a little bit safer.

That said, I totally ate the tree brain.

At some point a small residual nubbin finally did grow on the original tree. It seemed a waste to not do SOMETHING with it. And as much as I like writing this site for you guys, hot man on mushroom sex wasn't going to happen.

My wife has been the real force behind me not eating it over the years, but I caught her at just the right time. I reminded her that a professional mycologist had identified it and that I was well-read on all the potential pitfalls. It was still "young," it was not growing on a type of tree that could potentially make me ill (such as eucalyptus) and I was going to cook it thoroughly. I also found it hard to believe it would want to hurt me after all I've done for Tree Brain awareness.

I was 99.7% sure I'd be fine and I even made a deal with her that I'd just chew it and spit it out. Luckily, she was feeling sick and had a headache. I was given some vague "Do whatever you want," approval.

It really is heartwarming to know that my wife is devoted and loves me and doesn't want me to die. Unless her head hurts a little.

I tried to think of some perfect words to say before removing the brain. This was a historic moment and I wanted to come up with something fitting. Then my neighbors across the street drove up. I felt silly and hid behind my car until they went inside. Eventually I cut off the brain and ran back into my house. Historically.

It was weird to see it in my kitchen. I took a few pics like a geeky fanboy...

then unceremoniously hacked it to pieces.

The raw brain didn't smell like much of anything. If I was going to taste this thing, I didn't want to mask the flavor so I just went with a little olive oil.

The hunks got more intensely orange as they cooked down and soon it was go time. As I promised my wife, the plan was to chew it and spit it out. BUT IT WAS SO GODDAMN DELICIOUS IT HAD TO BE SWALLOWED. IT WAS THE BEST MUSHROOM I'VE EVER HAD.

I had read over and over that these Sulfur Shelf mushrooms (sometimes called "Chicken of the Woods") were supposed taste like chicken or even lemony chicken. But it didn't just "kind of" taste like lemony chicken. It was as if Willy Wonka branched out from chocolate to work on a lemony chicken mushroom and when he let you try it you'd be like, "Holy shit, this REALLY tastes like lemony chicken, Bill!" (Although it wouldn't kill you to treat Mr. Wonka with a little more respect.)

I waited awhile to see if I got sick. I didn't, so I went off zombie-style on the remaining brains. Even my wife, who was still feeling like crap, tried it and had to admit to its deliciousness.

Lest you doubt that the tree brain was consumed, I've decided to include an up close and personal picture of my sloppy food hole, chewing it up. I've always felt you didn't need to actually see these types of pix of food literally being mashed up in my mouth, but I figured on such a momentous occasion, it should be documented -- saliva, taste buds, 4 days of stubble and all.

I can't wait until next year. I will eat the shit out of that tree.

I have to say, it's weird to watch something grow for 4 years and then all of a sudden you're eating it. It really made me think... Maybe I should... EAT MY SON.

"Hi, I'm Jeremy Gelbwaks. Remember -- never eat your son."

But think about how tender he'll be, Jeremy Gelbwaks!

"Oh, he'd be tender for sure. But, Jeremy's right."

BRIAN FORSTER?! What are you doing here?!

"I'm here to say eating your kids is not cool."

"But-- I have a website, and-- Fine, whatever. I won't eat my son." Stupid Chris Partridges and their voice of reason.

(All Steve, Don't Eat It! posts can be found here.)

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