Pan’s Original Mushroom Jerky seems to groan as you pluck it from its hook in the dried food aisle. How did I find myself here, it wants to know, suspended amid such a shocking array of salty, shriveled-up meat-stuffs? Turkey to the left, bison to the right. These fragile ‘shroom morsels, in their squishy bag, cannot stand another second in this desiccated bestiary.
Pan’s is comprised — apart from shiitakes and water — mostly of Whole Foods’ royalty: coconut sugar, chia seeds, avocado oil, and, of course, the gaudy pink king of the Foodie movement, Himalayan salt. Plunging your nose into the bag reveals an earthen scent that is pungent though not unpleasant. You’ll imagine gorging on a mound of loam — is this where a desire to be healthy has led you? Clustered at the bottom, the jerky waits with its requisite silica chaperone. The stuff resembles a pile of brittle sticks — a homunculus’s kindling. It’s slick to the touch, but splits in the teeth like the parched epidermis of a bog body. As you gnaw and gnash through each tortured scrap, a mantra takes shape in your subconscious: this is not flesh, merely some harmless fungi.
There’s not much taste at first, but a leisurely umami gradually envelops the palate. While your fingers grow slippery with avo-grease, you’ll no doubt press on, greedy to find the moistest bits in the base of the bag, beneath their drier brethren. As you chew on and on, you might whisper a prayer to Pan himself, that most benevolent satyr. How kind he was to bestow these woodland fragments upon you! Rustling about to recover any last stray nubbins, you’ll wonder indeed how you were ever waylaid in the dismal land of Jack Link’s and Oberto.