Mushroom Shaker

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Mushroom Shaker

Object No. 19 of 50 — Significant Objects v2

[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Greg Rowland, has ended. Original price: $3.00. Final price: $32.00. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds of this auction to 826 National.]

I am a mycologist. I study fungi. (I do not study “toadstools” or “fairy rings.” These are objects of fantasy, not science. Ask me about “toadstools” or “fairy rings” and I will most surely spit in your eye.)

It is my great misfortune to encounter non-mycologists from time to time. It may seem astonishing, but there are people who cannot separate agaricaceae from coprinaceae, much less entolomataceae from strophariaceae. But I can, because I am a mycologist.

I have mixed emotions when I meet people who cannot distinguish between entolomataceae and strophariaceae. Mostly I feel pity, mixed with a burning feeling of nausea that settles around my upper trachea. Sometimes I feel pure hatred. I reserve the stronger emotions for those who deliberately flaunt a lack of mycological knowledge as some kind of “badge of honour.” Please be assured that, if I were to meet you, and you deliberately flaunted your lack of mycological knowledge in my presence, then I would most definitely spit in your eye.

Beyond that, here are the two worst things you can say to a mycologist:

“Is there ‘mush-room’ in your field for advancement?”

“You must be a real ‘fun-gi’ to be with.”

It is the fun-gi “joke” that fills the mycology community with dread and foreboding. It is repeated to us every time we venture outside of the mycology community. (Sometimes up to twice a month.) It is enough to make a mycologist spit. It is certainly enough to make a mycologist produce a unique form of body-anger-fungus — which has, ironically, provided a research paper dividend for two less than honorable members of our field. (You know who you are.)

A human female, who carried no malign fungal infections, gave me this Mushroom Shaker. She was attracted to mycologists, and had never knowingly uttered The Joke (op. cit.). She was a dilettante mycologist at best, yet her shiny shoes and gadfly, fungal-free demeanor blinded me.

Some might see this as a thoughtful gift for a mycologist. They would be wrong. This “gift” is merely an extension of the ritual degradation of our science by the non-mycology community (see above, passim). This is why its companion piece is now in several pieces in a landfill, having been battered into fragments by a specialized hard-fungal chipping utensil.

This object is a non-mycologically accurate three-dimensional evocation of a non-existent mushroom. Do not use it as a reference device. Or for any purpose whatsoever. Don’t even look at it for more than 0.75 seconds.

In closing, I contend that this Mushroom Shaker embodies a strong risk of mycological disinformation. Just like the woman who gave it to me.


Greg Rowland used to write for The Idler and The Observer, but now has numerous commercial interests across the globe. He lives in London with his wife and children.

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