Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Mushroom Incident

Ever since I was a little kid, I could spot a hair on my plate. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see it if it was halfway buried under the food. They were usually from cats or dogs, since we always had one or two of them running around the house.

When I owned my restaurant in New Jersey, there were a couple of provision houses where I bought my food items. After all the years of serving the same food to customers, I would get a little sick of eating the same things, day after day. Oh, don't get me wrong, I spiced things up a bit. One day, I would eat a burger with lettuce and tomatoes, the next day, I'd make it with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. Same thing with chicken. You're kind of limited with hot dogs. French fries, back when they were still called that, I'd dip in ketchup one day and mustard the next. But, I'd still get bored. Sometimes, I'd send someone out to get me a good steak or seafood of some kind. Hey, while you're at it, get one for yourself. On me.

One of the nice perks of being in the restaurant business is the free sample stuff. A sales rep would come in and say, "Hey, this product might sell well here. You want to try it out?"


Most of them were pretty good, but, I never really added much to my already existing menu. They would always bring you fliers of new products and what's on sale. One time I saw something for frozen breaded mushrooms you deep fry. I loved deep fried breaded mushrooms. Heck, how much are they? How many pounds? I'll take one. I couldn't wait for my next delivery to bring me my goods and that brand new box of mushrooms. I think I waited out by the road when I saw the truck coming.

I carefully opened the box. I think it was 10 pounds. I didn't want any of them to spill out onto the floor. I threw a whole bunch into the deep fryer. Who cares if it was lunch time? It was my restaurant, my lunch rush and my mushrooms. Of course, I offered some to my employees after I hid them from the view of the customers. I said, "Eat them now while you can. The rest are mine."

When I closed the box to put into the freezer, I noticed it said PRODUCT OF THE PHILIPPINES. Who cares where they were from? See? Even back then we were outsourcing. All I needed to know was that every day I could eat deep fried mushrooms. I would bite into that crisp breading. Those soft, succulent mushrooms were delectable to me. Every day, for a month, I cooked up a batch. Sometimes, I'd share. Usually, I'd eat them in the afternoon when the lunch crowd was gone. It was slow then. I'd only have one other person working until dinner time.

I was probably about halfway into that box when I had an experience that would change my mushroom eating habits for the rest of my life. I had cooked up a few. Bear in mind that I was not even close to getting tired of them yet. As I popped one into my mouth and started to chew, I could feel a hair in there somewhere. I managed to grab the end of it without losing any of the mushroom. I started to pull the hair out. Out and out it went. I started to move my fingers away from my mouth. The farther I got, I realized this was no ordinary hair. It was long and straight. And black. It must have been 2 feet long by the time it was completely out. I spit the mushroom into the garbage. Oh, that poor Filipino woman losing her hair like that. How did something that long get wound up into one mushroom? I didn't want to think about it. My appetite was gone. I threw the remainder of that box right into the garbage and I've never eaten one again. I still love mushrooms, but, the thought of breaded ones, well, it makes my hair fall out.

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