Nasty Sheboygan Mushrooms

Okay, eww. I’m known for having a pretty diverse palate. I don’t eat things just because they taste good. I eat things to experience unique cultures. Well, sometimes I eat things out of sheer stress (chocolate) and if I have a few extra minutes before I have to walk out the door. But when I’m in a new place like Sheboygan, which has a particular food culture, I want to dine and drink the traditional way.

So I was invited to the Staff Merriment night, held every few months by the folks at the arts center. We went to a very traditional Sheboygan German restaurant called Al and Al’s where the fish is said to be top notch (it is). The restaurant and bar is a family-friendly, blue collar place where folks go to enjoy rib-sticking food, a waltz, a polka, live accordion music and an Old Fashioned.

An Old Fashioned is a Sheboygan favorite beverage made from either whiskey or brandy, served sweet or bitter, with your choice of garnish (often called garbage). Garnishes include maraschino cherries, pickled onions, brussels sprouts, pickled mushrooms and who knows what else (probably fish heads and sponge clippings). I’ve had olives in martinis before, so I figured I’d try the mushroom option just to live a little. I found it nasty.

I have a very short list of foods I find disgusting. Gazpacho is high on that list, along with every other chilled soup I’ve ever tried. And now that I’m trying to write that list I’m on the spot and can’t think of the other things. But Sheboygan pickled mushrooms now preside. In fact, in the future, if I ever have to eat another Sheboygan pickled mushroom I hope to have an icy vat of gazpacho nearby for cleansing my palate and perhaps even brushing my teeth. Maybe I’ll have a teaspoon of drain-o as well.

For your viewing pleasure, the experience was photographed.

Here’s me sizing up the task before me.

Here’s me taking a breath before eating the slimy, preserved mushrooms.

And there they go...

Chewing, and doing what I can to smile. They taste monstrous.

And here I am contemplating taking legal action against everyone who encouraged me to try the unlikely delicacy.

What was I supposed to do? Wash the wretched aftertaste down with the very beverage in which the mushrooms once floated? Like laboratory samples? They effing gave me heart burn. I was burping and coughing later that evening and part of the following day. We hosted an open studio for the general public to come make tummy pillows and I was a gassy dragon of mushroomness the whole time. Ugh. The antacid tablets I swallowed scaled my esophagus to escape the flames of mushroom stench that were offgassing in my stomach. You can only imagine the horror upon the faces of my workshop participants. They stayed and made sock monsters out of sheer guilt.

But I’m a good sport, as you can see in this photo of me with Erica, one of my hosts. I forgave all of the Art Center employees and forewent my plans to voodoo doll the lot of them.

For now.