Mushrooms and Truffles: A “Fluxus Eleatis” disourse

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Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: The word gastronomy has been revived from the Greek; it sounds sweetly in French ears, and although imperfectly understood, simply to pronounce it is enough to bring a joyful smile to every face.  We have begun to distinguish gourmandism from greed and gluttony; it has come to be regarded an admissible inclination, a social quality welcome to the host, profitable to the guest, and beneficial to the art: and gourmands are now classed with all other enthusiasts who share a common predilection.

Mrs. T: Mushrooms are primarily texture. Truffles are primarily flavour. Mrs. T: We had grilled mushrooms, in the Dimatis Tavern, Aghios Dimitrios, West of Mount Olympus in Greece. The mushrooms were collected earlier on the day we had lunch, grilled and sprinkled with coarse sea salt, crushed garlic, parlsey, olive oil and lemon juice. Perfection in simplicity, the apotheosis of texture.

Mr. FFF:  Mrs. T will reveal herself today, as a person, of unknown ethnicity, born in Romania, a few days after the Revolution of 1989 in Timisoara. Her parents died in a car crash the day after she was born. I found her by accident – most important things in life happen by accident – and we have been together ever since. She has become my gourmand alter ego. Mrs. T: I met Mr. FFF in Targoviste. It was 24th December 1989. I was 3 days old. Abandoned in a trash can.

MM: Why was Mrs. T found in Targoviste, a town 500 kilometers east of Timisoara, on the day the Causescus were arrested and taken into custody?
Mr. FFF: After the grilled mushrooms west of the mount of Greek Gods, I beg to travel East, and taste crispy deep fried mushrooms with wasabi flavor. I thank Arlene B. Hsu for the recipe, I fell in love with the dish. Arlene says it can be found in variations as street food in Taiwan. This alone is a good reason to visit the island country. Succulent juicy but firm mushroom flesh, coated in crispy dough, oozing wasabi heat and intensity, gives you a reason to live, in spite of the fiscal mess in Europe.
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán: Cookig is a metaphor for culture. Eating means killing and swallowing a being which has been alive, whether animal or plant. If we directly devour the dead animal or the uprooted lettuce, one would say that we were savages. However, if we marinade the beast in order to later cook it with the aid of aromatic Provençal herbs and a glass of rancio wine, then we have effected an exquisite cultural operation, equally based on brutality and death. Cooking is a metaphor for culture and its hypocritical content.
Fricando +

Mr. FFF: The road has been opened centuries ago and traversed billions of times since then. From the grill to the frying pan, and then to the stew pot. Fricando (beef stew) in Restaurante Ramon Freixa, Barcelona, Cataluna. Wonderful flesh, superbly cooked slowly until it becomes soft and delicious, with the tasty mountain mushrooms “moixernons”. It was served with garlic cloves (like candy) and the green stuff that was absolutely amazing: bitter, crunchy, full of flavour!  This dish is like a volcano of flavours!

Ferran Adria:  the creative inspiration I have drawn from Japan is a revelation, a drink from the fountain of youth.

Akelare: Wild mushrooms and egg pasta (Μανιτάρια με παστα)

Mr. FFF: Wild mushrooms and egg pasta in Pedro Subijana’s restaurant, Akelare, near San Sebastian.

Pepe Carvalho: She asked me to be taken “somewhere where we can  just  eat anything”,  just anything being, precisely, what I never wanted to eat.

Mrs. T: Who was this she?

Pepe Carvalho: Teresa Marsé, a spoilt member of the bourgeoisie dedicated to shopping.

MM: Pepe Carvalho tiene una relación  tormentosa con Charo, su novia. Charo es puta; puta feminista para más señas… ante la promiscuidad de Carvalho ella  se enfada, aunque no ocurre al contrario ,el detective comprende y acepta el trabajo de su novia…

Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria: I do not know what to say, may be it is enough to say I am beautiful.

Mr. FFF: Between dishes it is always good to cleanse the palate with fizzy water.

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: A saute of truffles is a dish of which the mistress of the house always does the honours herself; in short, the truffle is the jewel of cookery. I set out to find the reason for this preference, for it seemed to me that several other substances had an equal claim to the honour; and I found that reason is the widespread belief that truffles are conductive to erotic pleasure; what is more, I became convinced that nearly all our tastes, predilections, and admirations are born of the same cause, so closely are held in thrall by that most capricious and tyrannical of the senses.

Mr. FFF: Mugaritz. Loin of duck, served with iodized compliments; crumblings and shavings of summer truffle in the Mugaritz restaurant, near San Sebastian.

Julia Kristeva: Analysis strictly speaking exacts payment of the price set by the subject for revealing that his or her complaints, symptoms or fantasies are discourses of love directed  to an impossible other – always unsatisfactory, transitory, incapable of meeting my wants or desires.

MM: I did not set a timeframe, but I expected to see a mushroom article – an exhaustive one.

Amanita phalloides: I am deadly poisonous! I contain both phallotoxins and amanitins. It is the amanitins that are responsible for the poisonings in humans. Amanitins are cyclic octapeptides that stop protein synthesis in the cells they encounter. All human organs are effected, but damage to the liver is most severe and liver failure is primarily responsible for the death of my victims. Symptoms usually appear 8-12 hours after ingestion. Death occurs in 7-10 days in 10-15% of patients.

Julia Kristeva:  My commitment to analysis … is ultimately shaken by the discovery that the other is fleeing me, that I will never possess him or even touch him as my desires imagined him, ideally satisfying.

Mrs. T :  Artichoke cream with black truffle, in Restaurant Cilantro, Arles, Provence, France.

Pepe Carvalho: Sex and gastronomy are the two most serious things there are.

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: Hence it may be taken for certain that the truffle is a food as wholesome as it is agreeable, and that, eaten in moderation, it goes down as easily as a letter into a postbox.

Mrs T: When we went  to Arzak’s restaurant, we had the wonderful truffle egg. But Elena does not want us to publish any of our photos, and we respect this wish. I therefore share a photo from Arzak’s recipe book published by “El Pais”, Baked potatoes stuffed with truffles. Wonderful in its simplicity.

Joni L. McClain: In March of 1985, four illegal aliens who had been without food for several days consumed fried wild mushrooms after picking them in a field in Southern California. They each ate between one a nd six mushrooms and, approximately one to two days after consuming the mushrooms, all four men developed gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and watery diarrhea. They went to a local mission for the homeless where they were unable to eat. Their symptoms continued and they were taken to two local hospitals. On admission, all four men appeared dehydrated and three were hypotensive (blood pres- sure less than 100/50). One man stated that he had developed “white stools .”  Three of the men were initially assessed as having gastroenteritis or acute hepatitis or both. The fourth man had been admitted to a sepa rate hospital with the diagnosis of possible acute mushroom poisoning when he was able to ident ify the mushrooms he had consumed f rom a picture of Ama nita phalloides. The hospital where the other three victims were being treated was contacted and the diagnosis and treatment were modifed accordingly…Three of the men died within three days of admission (five days after eating the mushrooms ), and the fourth died eight days following admiss ion (eleven days after eating the mushrooms) . At autopsy, each of the men d emonstrated findings typical of hepatic failure ..The kidneys were pale, swollen, and  in one case displayed multiple cortical infarct ions. The heart in each case demonstrated hemorrhage ranging f rom patchy petechiae to confluent subendocardial left ventricular intramuscular hemorrhage. Two of the men demonstrated hemorrhagic gastritis , one had focal rectal ulcers, and the fourth had no gastrointestinal abnoralities. Mrs. T:  Veal Sweetbreads with artichokes, black truffles and mashed potatoes, in , Restaurant Cilantro, Arles, Provence, France.

Pepe Carvalho: One must drink to remember, and eat to forget.

Terence McKenna: … the transformation from humans’ early ancestors Homo erectus to the species Homo sapiens mainly had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis in its diet – an event which according to his theory took place in about 100,000 BC (this is when he believed that the species diverged from the Homo genus)…In higher doses, the mushroom acts as a sexual stimulator, which would make it even more beneficial evolutionarily, as it would result in more offspring. At even higher doses, the mushroom would have acted to “dissolve boundaries”, which would have promoted community-bonding and group sexual activities-that would result in a mixing of genes and therefore greater genetic diversity. Generally McKenna believed that the periodic ingestion of the mushroom would have acted to dissolve the ego in humans before it ever got the chance to grow in destructive proportions.

Porcini e fegato di vitello

Mrs. T:  A divine combination, porcini mushrooms with tender ultra sweet calf’s liver, from “dal Pescatore”, in the Park of River Oglio in Northern Italy.

Mr. FFF: Carles Abellan. Deconstructed three-part tortilla (omelette).

MM:  You are a mushroom and truffles man.

Mr. FFF: truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean mushroom; spore dispersal is accomplished through fungivores, animals that eat fungi. Almost all truffles are ectomycorrhizal and are therefore usually found in close association with trees.

Robert Burton: Cookery is become an art, a noble science: cooks are gentlemen.

La Famiglia Urbani

Olga Urbani: Truffles grow wild, underground, usually at the base of an oak tree. They used to use pigs, but they ate the truffles.Very rich American people they only see truffles on the table of a very elegant restaurant. They don’t see this. Now you know why they are expensive, right?

Florence Fabricant:The prized, richly fragrant black truffles of France have been called black diamonds. But for some swanky dishes this season, zircons may be more like it. Another, cheaper kind of black truffle, the tuber himalayensis from China, has been flooding the market. This influx has created a problem because unscrupulous dealers in France have been mixing the two and selling them all as French truffles, tuber melanosporum, to restaurants. Dealers in the United States have been doing the same. Although the two types look the same, the Chinese truffles, when cut, are likely to be blacker, with less veining. They tend to have a chemical odor and very little flavor.

Animelle co i funghi

Mr. T: Sweatbreads with mushrooms. Animelle co i funghi del Monte Algido, in Osteria di San Cesario, San Cesario, near Rome, Italy.

Daniel Boulud: Right after Christmas I started getting some truffles that I thought were overripe at first. They were very dark and had very little veining. They smelled of benzine and tasted like cardboard. Then I began hearing about the Chinese truffles.

Mrs. T:  Venison tournedo with foie on top, potatoes, chenterelles and black truffle, in La Provence Restaurant, Vilnius, Lithuania.  . The meat was medium rare, as it should, and it was delicious! The combination with the foie was also a good one, it worked!

Roland Griffiths:As a reaction to the excesses of the 1960s, human research with hallucinogens has been basically frozen in time. I had a healthy scepticism going into this. [But] under defined conditions, with careful preparation, you can safely and fairly reliably occasion what’s called a primary mystical experience that may lead to positive changes in a person. It is an early step in what we hope will be a large body of scientific work that will ultimately help people. When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously-occurring mystical experiences that, at 14-month follow-up, were considered by volunteers to be among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives. One mechanism underlying these effects appears to be that psilocybin occasioned an experience having features similar to spontaneously-occurring classical mystical or religious experiences. A limit to the generality of the study is that all of the participants reported at least intermittent participation in religious or spiritual activities before the study. It is plausible that such interests increased the likelihood that the psilocybin experience would be interpreted as having substantial spiritual significance and personal meaning. A systematic replication of the study comparing groups having different levels of spiritual/religious dispositions or interests could be informative.

Mr. FFF: Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms”, were used in ancient times, and were depicted in rock paintings. Many native peoples have used mushrooms for religious purposes, rituals and healing. In modern day society they are often used to evoke a “high”, which is sometimes described as spiritual experience and is often euphoric in nature. Sometimes however, the disorientation of psilocybin and psilocin’s psychedelic effects may bring on anxiety such as panic attacks, depression and paranoid delusions. However, recent studies done at the Imperial College of London and also at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine conclude that when used properly, psilocybin acts as an anti-depressant.

“I had a rough day. Lets have a smoke and some mushrooms…”

Roland Griffiths:When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously-occurring mystical experiences that, over a year later, were considered by volunteers to be among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives and to have produced positive changes in attitudes, mood, altruism, behavior, and life satisfaction. In addition to possible therapeutic applications, the ability to prospectively produce mystical-type experiences should permit rigorous scientific investigations about their causes and consequences, and may provide novel information about the biological bases of moral and religious behavior.

Funghi Porcini

Participants

Amanita muscaria

Amanita phalloides: also known as the Death Cap, is the most deadly and poisonous mushroom on Earth.

Ferran Adria, Catalan chef and co-owner of the El Buli restaurant in Roses, Cataluna

Daniel Boulud, chef and owner of Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan, New York

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French gourmand and author

Robert Burton, English Scholar and Vicar

Pepe Carvalho, Catalan private investigator

Florence Fabricant: American, New York Times journalist

Mr. FFF, wanderer

Roland Griffiths, of the department of neuroscience and psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, USA

Julia Kristeva, Bulgarian-French psychoanalyst

Joni L. McClain,  American M.D.

Terence McKenna, American philosopher, psychonaut, researcher, teacher, lecturer and writer

MM, partner

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Catalan writer and journalist

Spencer, private detective

Mrs. T, unknown ethnicity, the gourmand alter ego of Mr. FFF

Olga Urbani, Italian truffle merchant