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Omaha Magazine

Otis Twelve: The Last of Me

Apr 26, 2023 02:59PM ● By Otis Twelve
otis twelve

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Did you know that yeast, a living organism, is neither an animal or a plant? Yes, one of the most useful of single-cell living things, is in a strange middle ground that stretches from tasty to toxic. Yeast is a fungus.

This is a really scary fact, especially if you watched The Last of Us on HBO. You know, that mini-series where an infectious fungus kills off 80% of the human race after unleashing a zombie plague of mushroom monsters that, in one episode, turns my hometown of Kansas City into a post-apocalyptic hell hole comparable to today’s Tallahassee, Florida, where anything that reproduces asexually can cause widespread panic. Fear of fungi could be the next big Culture War issue. Mark my words.

After all, fungus can be very scary. For one thing yeast produces kombucha, that brownish tea that you see at Whole Foods, or on the kitchen counter of those worrisome old hippies who just moved in next door from Oregon, who own a car that plugs into a 220 outlet in their garage replete with a bumper sticker that says, “Don’t Honk if You Hate Noise Pollution.”

If you like beer, wine, or bread, you may have been exposed to dangerous levels of yeast. It’s just true—even real root beer needs yeast to exist. So, be a little careful if you visit an A&W restaurant, though, it must be said, the burgers are delish—though safer without the bun.

Yes, fungi related to yeast could turn us all into mindless murdering automatons as in The Last of Us. If that happens, we will all wish we had run off to Bora Bora to live as a beachcomber like we’d half planned to do back early in the 21st century when the kids all needed orthodontic braces and new smart phones. We all know that zombies can’t sail, so the South Pacific should be safe, assuming the fungus doesn’t have access to Expedia.

But back to baking bread. It’s my latest passion. The whole process is, in my mind, an adventure.
I mean all you need is flour, water, salt, and a bit of “not animal, not plant life-form.” Mix it all together, careful not to be bitten, let it rise, knock it down, let it rise, knock it down. Let it rise, then pop it into an oven and bake it until it is crusty perfection.

“Where’s the adventure in that,” you ask?

Well, if you’re using a cast iron Dutch oven preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit in a kitchen full of curious dogs, anything can happen. Burnt noses, burnt fingers, etcetera, etcetera…etc. etc.…then it’s off to the vet or the ER, and who knows who you might run into out there in the wild. Kombucha freaks, siding salesmen, Florida politicians, or former prom dates.

Some of them might already be infected by the zombie fungus.  

All of this popped into my head when I was measuring out yeast for a rustic Italian boule. Yeast, my favorite fungi except for Shitakes. Meanwhile, the oven timer is dinging. Pass the butter. 

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 6-10 a.m. Visit for more information.

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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