November 4, 2013

Big Red Ambition: #69 Take PLPA 2010: Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds

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By SAMANTHA WEISMAN

With course enroll just around the corner (or already happening for some of you), I thought I would write about the time I checked #69 off the 161 list. In the spring semester of my freshman year at Cornell, I took PLPA 2013: Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds. (2013 is the course number for the 3-credit version of the class that includes a lab in addition to the lecture.)

Who would have ever thought that I would enjoy a class about mushrooms, fungi and mold? Further, I never would have thought that after disliking mushrooms (the food, not the drug) my entire life, I would actually enjoy eating mushrooms after taking this class. BUT NOW I DO!

I cannot praise this class enough. It is perfect for so many reasons. First of all, George Hudler is an incredible professor. He takes seemingly complex and mundane subject matter and delivers comprehensible, fascinating and captivating lectures.

In an interview with the Cornell Chronicle from 2011, Professor Hudler said, “[I] try to reach those people who have an aversion to scientific courses. I purposely leave out a lot of the terminology because I think you just don’t need that to develop an appreciation for the natural world.”

For example, did you know that the Lion King actually has erroneous depictions of insects and fungi? Or that there is a widespread theory that the Salem witch trials were largely impacted by hallucinogenic mushrooms? I learned that the cause of a mass death of 100,000 turkeys was because of a common mold, and that one of the oldest and biggest living things on Earth is a 1,500 year old mushroom in Michigan. I now know how to ferment wine, the six things to say to a person who is about to do shrooms (hasn’t come in handy yet) and the origin of bleu cheese (funny story: a goat herder in France left his cheese in a cave for a few weeks and when it was edible upon his return, he thought it was a miracle! But it was actually fermentation.)

We learned so many interesting facts about everything that surrounds us, and even though I feel like a total nerd (sorry, not sorry; I am one), the fact that I still remember these fun tidbits from two years ago definitely means something.

At the end of the class, we got a pencil that says, “I took shrooms,” which I still have, and Professor Hudler and the TAs threw us a mushroom feast — which is where I ate delicious food and developed my newfound love of mushrooms.

I think it’s safe to say that this class helped to shape my Cornell experience. I am an artsy Communication major who likes to read books about boy wizards and watch TV shows about politics and is not very good at science, yet PLPA 2013 was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.

So if you need a class to take next semester, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that checking off #69: Take PLPA 2010: Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds is the best decision you can make. Good luck, and let the 149th Annual Cornell Course Enroll begin! May the odds be ever in your favor (or, preferably, mine)!

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