Side Post: “Start Again” Episode 89–What are Pine Mushrooms?

Seriously, if you are not watching this inadvertently funny and highly entertaining show, you are missing out big time. Episodes 1-40 are the warm-up, but 40-99+ are the main event, and it’s awesome. No current show makes me laugh out loud, cackle, yell at the TV in a good way or just put a big smile on my face like this one.

The Soompi board has come alive, adding to the joy of watching this drama. This show hits my funny bone in the right spot. Unlike “Laurel Tree Tailors” where the humor feels slapsticky, forced and contrived, this show seems intrinsically humorous, as if writer-nim is deliberately writing it tongue-in-cheek. Viewers may get frustrated at how the writer drags out the conflict with poor communication, but I find it interesting to see how many different ways the characters fail to communicate. The poor communication skills displayed as well as the dysfunctional family dynamics of both the Lee and the Na family could provide psychologists ample study fodder for years. Writer-nim threw a nice curveball about 10 episodes back when Grandpa and his caretaker nurse got married, and I heartily approved as a viewer and as someone who watched her similar age father marry earlier in the year. You go, Grandpa!!

My three loyal readers know how much I love researching traditional medicine and gifts from Korea that I run across in dramas. One of my most popular posts to date was about the Bellflower Root Wine traditional gift in “Heard it Through the Grapevine”. It is my feeling that the writer-nim of HITTG and SLA knows her Buddhist beliefs, Chinese medicine and traditional gift meanings inside and out. Use of the traditional food or gift in those dramas always provided a hidden meaning that made the gift even more interesting. “My Love Eun Dong” also had some mentions of traditional foods (like the ‘restorative soup’ needed after a long night of making love) and teas that fit in perfectly with the storyline. Would the writer-nim of “Start Again” be able to pull off a perfect use of a traditional gift as well?

I couldn’t pass up researching this as soon as I heard it:

startagain89pinemushrooms

Screencap from OnDemandKorea.com

From Episode 89, about 23 minutes in–Chaebol CEO Grandpa Kang wants to send a very special gift to Dr. Na because he (erroneously) thinks Dr. Na was a former boss of Nurse Song, Grandpa’s new wife, and was good to his employee back in the day.

Okay, so what are pine mushrooms, and why are they a cool gift?

pines_1

google image

Let’s start with good old Wikipedia. Pine Mushrooms, also known in Japan as Matsutake, are a rare and prized mushroom found in very specific locations in Japanese forests. Because of deforestation in Japan and a nematode (worm) invasion, the mushrooms are becoming exceptionally difficult to find. The mushrooms are found in other locales too, including China, Korea, Sweden, Finland, Laos, and Cambodia. Additionally, they are also found in British Columbia and in the Pacific Northwest region of the US from Washington state as far south as Northern California. Almost all the pine mushrooms sold come from outside of Japan today. The mushrooms are said to have a spicy and distinct odor, but I think that the Latin name of Tricholoma nauseosum pretty much says it all!

The cost is definitely on the high end. Pine mushrooms go for $2000 USD/Kg if they are from Japan, and $90 USD/Kg if they are from other countries. There are a multitude of vitamins and minerals present in the mushrooms, they are a good source of protein, and may possibly be of use to fight cancer as they inhibit tumors without destroying healthy cells. (1)  The mushrooms are also good for the health of the heart, and–get this–are considered an aphrodisiac! Heh, I wonder if Grandpa Kang partakes of these mushrooms now that he’s got a young(er) wife, and wants to give Dr. Na the hookup!

You can buy them on Ebay from China, or from Oregon at this website. Here are the mushrooms in a gift basket:

matsutake4

from justhungry.com. You are looking at approximately $500 USD of mushrooms in the basket!

The part I found interesting was from this website, which discussed the long tradition of giving these highly prized mushrooms as gifts. In ancient times, the mushrooms were said to symbolize fertility and virility, as well as good fortune and happiness. That just slays me. Giving a gift that symbolizes fertility (!) and good will to a kind and caring OB/GYN doctor who had to shut down his practice (and go bankrupt) because your trusted employee used some savage dirty dealings and subterfuge has got to be the height of unintentional irony!  I was even more blown away that the pine mushroom is also representative of autumn and the changing of the seasons. The mushrooms are harvested in early October for about 3 weeks. How much more of an awesome detail is that, since it’s early October right now?! That’s some amazing timing for this show to pull off. Heh, I would wager the season of Lee Tae Sung is just about over too–I think he is going to spend this coming winter in the doghouse! And LTS might just wanna pray that doghouse is far away from his wife, ’cause when she finds out that he cheated on her and had a daughter to boot….it’s gonna go down as the saying goes!

I bow deeply to the writer-nim of “Start Again” for providing a delicious (pun intended) and precious detail in this show.

 

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One thought on “Side Post: “Start Again” Episode 89–What are Pine Mushrooms?

  1. I have been visiting Soompi forums for a while and clicked on to your blog. I am also interested in traditional use of herbs and other cultures introduced in dramas but you have gone a step further. Thanks for your research on pine mushrooms.

    Like you, I am thoroughly enjoying this drama and glad to find a likeminded follower. I have decided to join Soompi forums but not sure how to make comments on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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