Mushroom: A Global History (Reaktion Books, U.K.)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbits went crazy over them, while the French philosopher Denis Diderot thought they should be ‘sent back to the dung heap where they are born’. In Mushroom, Cynthia D. Bertelsen examines the colourful history of edible fungi, whose 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 elevate them to the status of delicacy. And then there are those ‘magic’ mushrooms which some people link to ancient religious beliefs.

Published by Reaktion Books in the U.K., Mushroom: A Global History takes you on a magical mystery tour through the history of the mushrooms you cook and eat.

There’s a wonderful review of the book, by Leo Racicot, one of the best writers I’ve ever read:

“Add now, please, to my personal duo of mushroom revellers the name of food aficionado, author, and photographer, Cynthia Bertelsen. I spent several deluxe days in the company of her wonderful, colorful new Mushroom: A Global History, and can’t say enough good things about it. In a cavalcade of stunning photos and prose, Bertelsen accomplishes the near-impossible: she makes us fall in love with the homely spore. Columns of color, buttons of surprise and delight, each mushroom cap is as individual as a snowflake or a human face. Their humble umbrellas beckon us to come find them and serve them forth. Bertelsen delivers a command performance from start-to-finish.

We realize how marvelous it can be, foraging in Indian moccasins down a cool pine path, and suddenly spot one! Ruby red, sunny yellow, emerald-pretty sitting in a hidden nest just begging to be picked. Here, the whole golden world of mushrooms is laid out before us, a treasure chest of history and folklore, knowledge and astonishment. Bertelsen magically turns what could have been an arcane investigation into an intimate and involved roundelay of mushroom facts and fictions, as well as mushroom recipes you’ll want to try yourself.” [Click HERE for more.]