This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
The Agaricus ostreatus is known as the "vegetable oyster" - its flavor in a stew quite closely simulating the flavor of the bivalve; another fungus as the "beefsteak mushroom" - not without good reason; the Polyporus sulphurens distinctly suggests the flesh and flavor of chicken; others, as we have seen, resemble kidneys and sweetbread; while the Agaricus ulmarius of the elm would seem entitled to its popular name of "fish-mushroom," from the following incident related by Palmer:
"I recently sent some elm-tree mushrooms to a family where the youngest member is but twenty-one months of age. At breakfast-time she noticed the strange dish, and her father gave her a small piece. 'More fish! more fish!' was the instant response."
Indeed, the vegetarian may humor his humane whim, and still enjoy fish, flesh, and fowl at his table without a qualm of conscience in a menu which, in aroma, quality, and flavor, might well deceive his unconverted omnivorous brother, only at last to win his encomium to the glory of the multum in parvo fungus. The possibilities in this direction are suggested in my appended hints for a menu for the vegetarian.
In my previous pages I have made occasional reference to the more simple methods of preparation of certain species of fungi for the table, but have reserved extended reference to culinary treatment for the present chapter.
For the benefit of those of my readers who may desire to "humour their delicate fancie" to the full, with the result of a more or less complete disguise of the characteristic mushroom flavor through the arts which are supposed to "assist nature," I append a selected list of favorite recipes for such alleged appetizing sophistication of the mushroom. Many of them will be found equally applicable to other species than that for which they are nominally recommended, especially if such species should possess the same general character as to consistency.
The author confesses that he is not in thorough sympathy with the general trend of these ingeniously contrived lures to dyspepsia, whose contemplation may well awaken a sympathetic appreciation of that antique philosophic epigram, "There are as many diseases as cooks" - the discriminating impeachment of Seneca regarding the "chef a la mode."
But doubtless the author will be overwhelmingly overruled in his hypercriticisms, and will remain one of a select discriminating minority in continued genuine enjoyment of his mushrooms, while the majority of his proselytes to mycophagy will in vain endeavor to detect the mushroom flavor in the obliterating disguise concocted in the kitchen or instigated by the mischievous "receipt-book."
Indeed, the prominence of the spice, clove, nutmeg, thyme, tarragon, and pepper ingredient in most of these "favorite recipes," to say nothing of the champagne, onion, garlic, lemon-juice, cayenne, anchovy, etc. , with which the delicately flavored mushrooms are so generally sophisticated in these culinary preparations, would seem to warrant our scepticism as to the value of the epicurean testimony as to the "superior flavor," of the various "Champignons," "Chantarelles," etc. , so confidently recommended. The juice of a lemon, or oil of lemon-peel, will absolutely annihilate the peculiar characteristic "fungus" flavor of the average mushroom. The true mushroom epicure, it would seem, should value his mousseron not as an absorbent vehicle for the gastronomic conveyance of highly seasoned sauce or dressing, but for the unique individual flavor which differentiates the fungus from other kinds of food.
But we are all allowed to differ in matters of taste, and each must decide for himself or herself what particular disguise is most palatable.
The recipes which follow are from various sources, most of them modifications based upon the earlier epicurean devices of Mrs. Hussey and Dr. Badham, the pioneers of English mycophagy, and of Roques, Per-soon, Paulet, Cordier, and other noted European authorities. I am indebted, also, to the works of M. c. Cook, Worthington Smith, W. Robinson, and J. a. Palmer for occasional selections from their recommended recipes.