Mushroom: A Global History

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Mushroom: A Global History, the first book completely dedicated to the culinary history of mushrooms, was recently published in the UK by Reaktion Books in London. The US edition is on booksellers’ shelves now, as well as in the UK. [Books are also available through your favorite online retailer.]

Known as the meat of the vegetable world*, mushrooms have their ardent supporters as well as their fierce detractors. Hobbits go crazy over them, while Diderot thought they should be “sent back to the dung heap where they are born.” In Mushroom, we examine the colorful history of these divisive edible fungi. As the book reveals, their story is fraught with murder and accidental death, hunger and gluttony, sickness and health, religion and war. Some cultures equate them with the rottenness of life while others delight in cooking and eating them. And then there are those “magic” mushrooms, which some people link to ancient religious beliefs.

To tell this story, we must travel to the nineteenth century, when mushrooms entered the realm of haute cuisine after millennia of being picked from the wild for use in everyday cooking and medicine. We describe how this new demand drove entrepreneurs and farmers to seek methods for cultivating mushrooms, including experiments in domesticating the highly sought after but elusive truffles, and we explore the popular pastime of mushroom hunting and includes numerous historic and contemporary recipes. Packed with images of mushrooms from around the globe, this savory book is essential reading for fans of this surprising, earthy fungus.

*But we all know that mushrooms are neither meat nor vegetable, right?

See The Edible Series for more about this and other books in the series. Here’s a list of the other books in the series, via the University of Chicago Press, which distributes the books in the United States.

Books are also available through your favorite online retailer.

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