“Excuse me, madame. I overheard your refused request and believe I can offer some assistance,” said the enthusiastic, off-duty, fried chicken pitchman.
The soporific Viktor and I were beginning another long day on the road with a chicken breakfast at a fast-food joint located alongside a highway just outside of Nowheresville, USA. Chicken, biscuits, cole slaw, corn, mashed potatoes, and other viands were on the menu, but coffee was not.
Viktor put down the titanium spork that he always carries with him on the off chance that he will end up eating fried chicken, and glanced at me with a wary eye.
“I heard you ask for a cup of coffee, and it surprised me, since you’re are at a fried chicken place. Most people don’t think to combine coffee and fried chicken,” the unctuous young man added.
“I, sir, am not most people,” I carefully said. I was overcome by a troubled mood. Without my matutinal mud I neither work nor play well with others.
“Well, madam, I happen to run a coffee business during my off-duty hours. Would you care to indulge in a sample?”
My heavy-lidded eyes widened. What miracle of java might this be? Is there hope of saving this doomed day? I nodded to the man in hasty agreement, indicating my willingness to sample his wares.
“Are you familiar with Ganoderma, the ancient Chinese mushroom that was once only consumed by royalty? Peasants faced harsh treatment, amputation, and even an early reunion with their ancestors for ingesting the Royal toadstool.”
“Why, no. How fascinating. How fantastic. An unexpected cup of coffee that comes with a tale of peasants, royalty, and forbidden mushrooms? Oh my.”
The Mysterious Coffee Peddler continued, “This coffee is brewed from those ancient, Royal mushrooms and has fantastic health properties. It isn’t merely a cup of coffee, it’s a delicious tonic of health and vitality. It contains anti-oxidants, and other health-stimulating properties.”
I was intrigued. And so, he handed me a cup of hot water, and two packets of coffee wrapped in a piece of paper normally used for food packaging.
I whipped out my knife and deftly cut a slit in a coffee packet. I was careful not to mangle the packaging, as I wanted to study it further.
As I moved to pour the powder into the cup, a complication arose. My cutting had not in fact opened the package. So, I firmly grasped the material and gently pulled.
The powdered miracle mushroom coffee rose into a cloud. It showered down upon my raiment and from thence to the floor.
“Blast and tarnation!” I exclaimed.
Viktor calmly responded, “Isn’t this what usually happens when you attempt feats of dexterity without caffeinated lubrication?”
I sighed in acknowledgment and began to recover what bits of the powder I could from my stylish traveling jacket, soon reclaiming enough to make a small cup of the miracle mushroom coffee.
I mixed water and powder, then slowly took a sip, wondering about what new world of exotic flavors my taste buds would be entering.
“It tastes like a latte.” I said. “It’s quite nice… sweet and mild.”
After I enthusiastically quaffed the elixir, the Mysterious Coffee Peddler asked, “So, how do you feel?”
Viktor raised an eyebrow, telegraphing concern.
“Why, I feel fantastic. My mood has lifted and I feel as if I could conquer any challenge that came my way,” I said elatedly.
“Well, madam, many people do mention a feeling of exhilaration and a sense of well-being after consuming this miracle brew. And it barely contains any caffeine at all! Isn’t that fantastic?,” he added, looking quite pleased with himself.
My smile faltered, and I gamely said, “Oh…wonderful. Thank you for sharing this marvelous health tonic. I will do more research, when I return to the Lab. A good day to you, sir.”
As we exited the premises, I whispered to Viktor, “Perhaps that salesman should learn never to tell someone afflicted with a caffeine addiction that his coffee product has very little caffeine. His volunteering of that all-important detail snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I was almost on the point of making a purchase….”
Some time later, I contacted the esteemed Professor of Mycology, Dr. Lysistrata Mudge, and asked her about the Ganoderma, the “mystical mushroom of Immortality.” She assured me that the mushroom actually does exist and may indeed have been an ingredient in my beverage.
She pointed out that modern studies of the fungi have confirmed some of the beliefs about its healthful properties. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol, stimulate the immune system, and to lower blood pressure.
I will have to delve further into the world of the Ganoderma. It is a fascinating topic, and worthy of future experiments, especially now that such work no longer bears with it the threat of Imperial punishment.