It still haunts my dreams, you know… the king mushroom.
My siblings and I still fight about it.
My parents still tell us it wasn’t all that big or all that bad.
We know better. We remember differently.
When we were growing up, my mom would make spaghetti. All the time. And it was really good, except for the ingredients that made it absolutely horrible. Raisins and mushrooms. I mean, come on… who puts raisins in spaghetti sauce? As an adult, I understand the mushrooms. I just don’t get the raisins and I never have.
But this post is about the mushrooms, and not just any mushroom but the KING MUSHROOM.
Every time my mom made spaghetti she would open about ten or eleven cans of mushrooms (yes, canned) and dump ’em into the sauce. It was…
Sorry, just started dry heaving and had to leave the computer for a sec.
Anyway, yes… canned mushrooms are about the worst things ever. To me, anyway. They have been since I was old enough to know what disgusting was.
And when we were kids my parents didn’t have a lot of money, and times were different, and we were required to eat everything on our plates no matter how gawd-awful we thought it was. Sometimes we’d try sneaky ways to get out of it. We’d hide it in our pockets or under our napkins. We’d drop things into our almost empty cups. And sometimes we’d chuck whatever we didn’t want to eat onto the floor under the table. Usually we didn’t get caught, but sometimes we did. And we still had to eat whatever it was, albeit had more hair and grit covering it.
And we all hated mushrooms. And one night, mom opened a can of mushrooms and inside was the biggest damn mushroom you ever saw in your life. I’m pretty sure it had to be folded in thirds just to get it into the can. And, with no thought to us, she dumped it into the sauce. Sometimes I wondered if she hated us. (Kidding mom!)
And then my older sister Tomi Ann dished some spaghetti onto her plate and passed it down to my dad for sauce. And my dad dished her a giant ladleful of it. And out plopped… the king mushroom.
I had seen it when my mom dumped it into the sauce, and I was so relieved that it was her who got the king mushroom. I remember her face going pale white as she looked at it, realizing how nearly impossible it would be to hide the little monster. Realizing that she didn’t have a lot of outs.
I may have even laughed at her. Silently, if nothing else.
I got my own ladleful of sauce, and slowly worked to hide the smaller, more easily stashable fungi where I would be safe from eating them.
I was doing a pretty good job, too. And then…
“WHO THREW THIS MUSHROOM ON THE FLOOR!?”
It was Dad. All five kids immediately tried to become invisible in our chairs while gawking at what lied beneath the table. And there it was. The king mushroom.
“It was Danny,” my older sister declared so matter-of-factly. “He got that mushroom, I saw it on his plate!”
You little… “IT WAS NOT ME! I SAW IT ON TOMI’S PLATE!”
Pretty soon I was blaming Tomi, she was blaming me, we both started blaming Eric and Amy (our younger siblings) and the scene basically escalated into something like this…
And then, “EVERYBODY QUIET!”
My mom and dad yelled it in unison as they pried us off of each other.
When the dust settled, my dad reached down and picked up the now fuzzy mushroom and plopped it on my plate. “Danny, I’m pretty sure I saw this on your plate. Eat it.”
I looked at my sister who looked like she’d just conquered Kilimanjaro. You little…
“Dad, it wasn’t mine!”
It didn’t matter. I had to eat it anyway. My dad was sure he had seen it on my plate. My mom backed him up.
And I was the worst of the food ditchers in the family.
For the rest of dinner, my siblings rubbed their hands together in euphoria as I tried my best not to puke while I endlessly nibbled nonexistent amounts of mushroom. They took so much satisfaction and pleasure in me eating that mushroom. The king mushroom. Especially Tomi.
I don’t know if I ever finished that thing. I don’t know how I could have finished that thing.
In all honesty, I don’t even remember if I’m the one who had to eat it at all. I don’t remember if it was me who originally got it, or one of my siblings. I don’t remember who was the perpetrator and who was the innocent victim. I don’t think my siblings remember either.
But we still fight about it. And we still point fingers. And we still have good laughs over it. And we all have our own version of the story. And here we are some 25 years later, and that king mushroom occasionally brings us all closer together in its weird, mystical, magical way.
And my mom still puts raisins in the spaghetti. And she still puts mushrooms in as well. We just pick them out discreetly and without consequence and catch each other smiling over our tainted memories of that king mushroom.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. Do you have any awesome rivalries or tainted memories that you still debate with your siblings or childhood friends? What are they? And, are they as fun for you as they are for us?