Shiitake Mushrooms (香菇)

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
A shiitake mushroom growing on a log
A shiitake mushroom growing on a log

I grew up hating mushrooms because of their meaty umami flavoring so I never understood my parents' fascination with shiitake mushrooms, which they called xianggu. Growing up in a somewhat assimilated household meant that the mushroom they loved was just another American ingredient to me. I grew up being able to pick and choose what food I wanted, but my parents did not. Both of them grew up in rural areas. They walked behind their cows, helped harvest and plant and fertilize the rice fields, gathered grass to feed the pigs and all the daily chores one would expect from a farming family. My dad learned how to cook when he was 10. He would eat rice with pepper because there was nothing else they could afford. They had chicken once a year on the Chinese New Year. The eggs would be collected and sold so they could afford to buy salt. One of the special treats they might have was when they went to pick wild shiitake mushrooms from the forest. This was before the rivers dried up and the forests became polluted. Fresh wild tender young shiitake mushrooms. Now, dried shiitake mushrooms are readily available. My parents constantly put them in soups and other dishes. My mother mentioned to me once how expensive wild shiitake mushrooms are now, and it is strange to think the difference modernization has had.

Year: 1978

– Connie

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant