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Dead Poets Beef With Mushrooms

What is a mushroom? It’s not a plant or an animal. Technically, it’s a fungus that produces a fleshy body. This earthly gem’s elusive arrival into the woods, cemeteries or unexpected spots (like your front yard) can appear so quickly, so mysteriously, that it’s generated seriously opinionated public discussions over the course of the past three hundred years and beyond. 

Yes, some folks instantly think of the hallucinogenic varietals, the ones that thrive on the tops of stinky cow patties found in open pastures after a fresh rain. Would Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd exist without stumbling upon a toadstool or eight? Even Alan Ginsberg was known to consume them for inspiration when writing poetry. But beyond taking that type of trip, there are thousands of others, a few deadly, many delicious, and some that stink beyond the bottom of a pig’s trough. 

I love mushrooms and their mysterious place in the giant cubicle of culinary/cultural history, yet I can’t help but notice the choice words that some of my favorite poets and writers from the 19th and 20th centuries composed when symbolically describing those “fruiting bodies.” Herewith, my literary journey through the turbulent rabbit hole of epic opinions from some of our most famous word Smiths.

Take the Scottish bloke, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes (and the dude who rocked a serious hipster mustache until old age) for example, who once composed this ditty:

"…A sickly autumn shone upon the land. Wet and rotten leaves reeked and festered under the foul haze. The fields were spotted with monstrous fungi of a size and colour never matched before-scarlet and mauve and liver and black-it was as though the sick earth had burst into foul pustules. Mildew and lichen mottled the walls and with that filthy crop, death sprang also from the water soaked earth."

True, some mushrooms do grow and sprout from dead and/or decaying matter (you can find some of the tastiest mushrooms at the cemetery, near grave stones.) At this point, I’d forgive Sir Arthur a pass for the low blow commentary since he created one of our cornerstone detective characters, Sherlock Holmes. But then I discovered that even Percy Bysshe Shelley, British poet and heartbreaker, had a mixture of feelings surrounding them when he wrote, 

And agarics and fungi, with mildew and mould

  Started like mist from the wet ground cold

  Pale, fleshy, as if the decaying dead

  With a spirit of growth had been animated…”

I really started to question my literary heroes as I spotted this bit from D.H. Lawrence, early 20th century novelist, poet, painter, bearded babe, and all around lady-killer:  

How beastly the bourgeois is

  especially the male of the species-

  Nicely groomed, like a mushroom

  standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable-

  and like a fungus, living on the remains of bygone life,

  sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own.

  And even so, he’s stale, he’s been there too long,

  Touch him, and you’ll find he’s all gone inside

  just like an old mushroom, all wormy inside, and hollow

  under a smooth skin and an upright appearance.

  Full of seething, wormy, hollow feelings

  rather nasty—-

  How beastly the bourgeois is!

  Standing in their thousands, these appearances, in damp England

  what a pity they can’t all be kicked over

  like sickening toadstools, and left to melt back, swiftly

  into the soil of England.”

Clearly, if I invited him over for dinner, chanterelles are out of the question. My fantasies of long walks in the woods with him might head south the moment I pluck a musty morel from the ground. 

In my quest, I started to wonder if it was all geography. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was from Scotland and Shelley and D.H. Lawrence were both British lads. I know that the mushroom was their three point shot for a slam-dunk in Debbie downer metaphors, but I continued to wonder if they ate them in real life after gutting them on the page. Perhaps British mushrooms and Scottish ones weren’t as tasty as the ones found in North America because of the climate and alkalines in the soil. 

So I turned my hopes to my American pal, Emily Dickinson, a gal who was rumored to rarely leave her house, to turn the negative opinions around. Surely, she would flip the script and have some positive feedback on these special edibles that seem to have grim reaper social status. Besides, she grew up in a state that has some decent mushrooms, if you look hard enough. 

Here’s what she had to say:

"Had nature any outcast face

  Could she a son condemn

  Had nature an Iscariot

  That mushroom—it is him.” 

It makes me wonder if much like D.H. Lawrence, she too, would potentially run for the hills if she came over to my house for dinner the moment linguine with black trumpets was served. Then again, she might have been the kind of person that was inseparable from Purell hand sanitizer on the New York City subway system, or might have struck up a love-affair with my favorite neurotic New Yorker, Woody Allen. 

At the end of my research, I came to the conclusion that I guess I couldn’t invite any of them to go out foraging with me. 

D.H. Lawrence is still a babe.

Dear God, it’s me, Margaret. Can men with mustaches cause food poisoning?

Just when you thought your food poisoning was the result of an evening filled with undercooked chicken, there was the Hungarian mustache man and his crew:

(*Please note, this video is not for the faint of heart, pregnant women currently suffering from morning sickness, or severely hungover underage drinkers-watch at your own discretion*)

The Real After-After South-By-Southwest After Partay is in yo mouth. Fo Real.


Did you just roll up to Austin in a shag carpeted van full of guitars, circuit bending instruments and 5 smelly dudes all named Bill and Ted?

Are you only wearing plaid shirts and ray-ban sunglasses all week long?

Are you wearing a ton of “wristbands” you actually acquired over the course of a few laser tag sessions but look like you’ve been to a plethora of after parties? 

Juggling your busy South by Southwest schedule (11 a.m. margaritas for breakfast, the American Apparel garage sale ((where everything has holes in it and everyone looks slightly sea-sick underneath those way-farer glasses)), hanging out with dudes looking all to similar to the current Joaquin Phoenix, or sipping on that third iced turbo at Joe’s) leaves little time for good eating. 

Here’s a very brief, simple guide to eating through the six day audio stretch of hipsters, Teva toting sound-check dudes, soccer moms on spring break who don’t actually know what South by Southwest is, and slightly disgruntled locals alike


For the L.A. hipsters/Silver Lake types/ band-aides of “Juliette and the New Romantics" : Musashino


The best Sushi restaurant in Austin providing fresh, traditional and innovative Japanese cuisine for both connoisseurs and impostors alike. Don’t worry, there’s enough “spicy avocado rolls” on the menu to satisfy those sporting pleather leggings to dinner, too.

Musashino Sushi Dokoro

3407 Greystone Drive

Austin, Texas

Phone: 512-795-8593

For the local Austin hipsters hanging out in the back of their friend’s truck (drinking Lonestar beers at 1 p.m.): El Chilito 
el-chilito-austinDon’t hesitate, just order it: The puffy taco with beef picadillo. Pull up those short cut-off shorts and let your muffin top spill over in joy whilst eating the most wonderful, hot, spicy, (slightly greasy), crunchy bits of delicious Austin cuisine. 

El Chilito

2219 Manor Drive

Austin, Texas

Phone: 512-382-3797

For the awkward twenty-somethings who pretend to be hip by reading Tiny Mixtapes and Pitchfork the week before South By Southwest begins to catch up to “what’s hip” (a.k.a. myself): The Mighty Cone

the-mighty-cone-closeupWhat’s not to like about fried food that’s packaged in something resembling those paper cups you get at the office water cooler?

Beyond the fact that the meatlicious Hudson’s on the Bend is producing something available under $10, there aren’t a whole lot of places that can master the art of frying an avocado as well as these homeboys achieve. The simple, crispy batter comprised of cornflakes, chili, sea-salt, sugar, almonds and sesame seeds make a bangin’ shell to the moist chicken, fresh avocado, and crispy shrimp cones. 

Don’t forget to order the chili dusted fries, perfectly seasoned alongside homemade ketchup (a balanced sweet, vinegar, slightly cinnamon flavored concoction). 


It’s like having an after-after South by Southwest party in your mouth without all the cigarette smoke and Makers Mark

The Mighty Cone

1603 South Congress

Austin, Texas

Phone: 512-383-9609

If you can’t get into any real after parties and you’ve binge-eaten to overcompensate for your insecurity, pretend to text someone really important on your iphone so that you look too cool to be bothered.

Works every time.

Not Your Average House Party. Pass the Chex Mix.

Nob Hill Might be Post-Modern.