The First Bite

Drew hated mushrooms.

It wasn’t anything to do with the taste. The taste was fine. If someone were to create a mushroom-flavoured tofu, or mushroom-infused bacon, he would probably eat it – after getting over the hipsterism.

But he could not stand to eat a mushroom itself.

He assumed it was the texture. The rubbery, chewy texture, like a chunk of tire mixed with bubblegum and sawdust, drove him to gag. Every time he bit down on one – regardless of how well disguised it was – Drew couldn’t help but gag.

Twice, he had vomited. The first time was as a child, when his mother first made mushrooms fried in butter. He took one bite, and spewed the rest of his dinner all over the dining room table.

The second time was when a high-end restaurant, after assuring him there were no mushrooms in its truffle risotto, put mushrooms in the truffle risotto. Drew ate the first bite: no mushrooms. The second bite was fine as well. But the third bite, he found one. A small piece, no larger than the tip of a finger, but it was enough. Drew leaned over and ejected the salad starter, the glass of wine, and a few pieces of rice.

The restaurant charged him for both the meal and the clean-up.

Now, Drew sat across from his date. She was intelligent, kind, beautiful, everything he hoped for in a partner. They had had five successful dates so far, and his mushroom problem had never come up.

So when she told him she had cooked a mushroom polenta, Drew’s face paled. She set it down in front of him, the pieces of fungus layered on top in a careful, artistic style. He looked at the food, then her, then back to the food. His mouth went dry. He tried to say something, but couldn’t; she had clearly worked hard on this. He held his fork, swallowed, then lifted the first bite of the meal. He swallowed again, then placed the bite in his mouth.

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