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July 30, 2008

Bottom of the Ninth: Shiitake Mushrooms at the Plate


It is the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven, and the home team, which is three runs down, is at bat with two out.


The series pits Bland and Delicious. What rides on the outcome is nothing less than the choice, for another year, of whether bland unexciting foods will rule. The crowd sits, silently biting lips (and contemplating eating them should Bland win).


In the Delicious dugout, the manager rubs his chin. He makes a gutsy call. It is time for the pesto gambit. The pesto gambit calls for the chopping together of fresh basil leaves, roasted pine nuts, and garlic together with olive oil and parmesan cheese. The manager makes the call, and the first base coach goes ashen – the pesto gambit, he says to himself, will not work. It will not work.


The reason for that is that there are only three steps – chopping the basil, adding the nuts and then finally grinding in the rest of the ingredients. It starts strong, but ends with the weakest hitter in the line-up. It is a strategy destined to strand runners.


Yet, the first base coach looks at the manager, who has a confident smirk. “What is the old dog up to?” the coach thinks.


Basil comes to plant, and is blended in a food processor as it reaches first base on a walk. A voice crackles over the stadium loudspeaker – “Now substituting for toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water for three minutes.” In the Bland dugout, the manager contemplates a change. His pitcher – cooked, warm pasta – is the best he has.


Sun-dried tomatoes belts one down the third base line. It stays fair, but just barely, and left fielder white bread picks it up to prevent basil from going to third. Basil and sun-dried tomatoes have been blended together in the food processor to put runners on first and second.


Garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese knocks dirt off its cleats and steps to the plate. Warm, cooked pasta hurls a slider, which results in a bloop single to center. The bases are loaded.


The stadium goes wild – the first base coach looks back to the manager. The pesto gambit has loaded the bases, but Delicious remains three runs down with two out. Will the manager let goat cheese on a Triscuit come to bat?


An answer comes from the loudspeaker, which again crackles to life. “Sautéed chopped shiitake mushrooms to bat for goat cheese on a Triscuit.”


The Bland manager goes to the mound for a chat with warm, cooked pasta. Yet there is the feel of destiny in the air. Chopped shiitake mushrooms points to the right field bleachers, and after warm, cooked pasta lets a pitch hang over the center of the plate, he sends it sailing out of the park, over the right field wall.


The crowd roars in delight as the pesto gambit is mixed with sautéed chopped shiitake mushrooms and warm cooked pasta. Delicious has won the pennant.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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