Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Fungus Among Us

So you thought this would be about politicians, right? Well, we need a break from all that and the controversy about urban planning (see next blog down). Nope, I'm talking mold, mildew, rust, smut, yeast, rot, gall, canker, mushroom, lichen, puff ball, and my favorite, slime, which has its own league. OK, I'm very convincing here, am I?

Seriously, it is such a vast part of the living thngs on the planet that scientists gave it its own Kingdom ... boy am I losing it here.

There are over 100,000 species of fungi, which is politically correct, some good (eat dead things to decompose them) and some bad (not waiting for things to die before putting on the food bag). So I think we all know from school that fungus are the most diverse and interesting things on the planet, the good ones showing up in bread, soda, booze, mushrooms, and medecine. The big money-makers. We tend blame the bad ones for allergies and skin rashes such as ringworm; there are no worms in ringworm but they look pretty darned wormy under the microscope, maybe a sort of squiggely-wormy. Some of the baddies include a neurotoxic black slime mold that for lack of its scientific name, is pronounced "Stakey-O-Boot-Us." This bad boy was single-handedly responsible for raising all the house insurance rates in Texas, leading to nice profit margins. It is currently most active in any new school built in Texas within the past five years.

Note that it would be a surprise to anyone, down in Mexico they actually eat smut. I don't think they're into viewing it, as in the US, as much as just eating it. It is called Huitlacoche, which was named after the occupying colonist French for always saying "Oui, la coochie!"


It is simply a corn soup or chowder that is currently the rage in the LA bistro scene. However, you have to get real corn smut, which is highly prized in Mexico but is against the law in the US. Yes, that's right, if US corn has any smut or aflotoxin, it cannot be sold for human consumption and often is donated to pig farms (lucky pigs) or sold as cheap deer feeder bait (poor deer). So anyhoo, Huitlacoche is based on a cream/milk base with chiles, smutty corn (hehe), chicken broth, and some secret ingredients that us silly Americans can only replicate by buying a big old bottle of Worchestershire sauce ... however you pronounce that. "Wooster-Shooster," maybe. The result is some pretty darn good mojo.

Mojo should not be confused with Mojito, which is pronounced "Moe Heat, Oh." If mojo has some magical hints of Aztec and Mayan chocolate and strange fermented spices, a mojito is simply a Cuban tequila martini, shaken and dry, another semi-illegal and fermented product. They both go wonderfully together! Both of these simple pleasures of life would not be possible without our friend, the humble fungus, to do the job.

And that, my friends, is the news, as Paul Harvey used to say.


Everett said...

After reading the above post, I don't feel so good! I think I just had some of that stuff. I think I'll stick with my good old Lemoncello,Grappa,and Blood orange juice on the rocks. Old Italian drink I learned about living in Italia for four years. Yum Yum, good stuff! Oh BTW Sam, I get to be first with the correction this time! Old Paul Harvey used to end with, " and that's the REST of the story"! Sorry, just couldn't pass up the chance. TIFN

Sam said...

Darn you Red Baron! Well, you are right and I was just doing the old Charlie Brown/Snoopie thing. Thanks for the message, Everett!

By the way, that soup and drink I mentioned really stinks. Sam