Readers criticize recent column; Amy responds

Dear Readers: I have heard from scores of readers extremely concerned about my response to “Avoiding Amanita,” the question written by a man who spends a few days each month with a group of buddies in a cabin in the woods.

To recap: “Avoiding” described himself as someone schooled in biology with expertise regarding the danger of eating foraged mushrooms.

His concern had to do with the fact that his friends had found mushrooms in the woods and had included these mushrooms in a spaghetti sauce without informing him. Unlike Avoiding, these men were not mushroom experts, and the next day they admitted their ignorance about the mushrooms they had picked.

Avoiding was rightfully horrified when he learned that the entire group had ingested foraged mushrooms, which had been cooked into the sauce.

Fortunately, no one got sick, but his friends were now “taunting” him about his extreme concern.

Avoiding was now refusing to eat food cooked by them, and was asking me if he’d overreacted.

I responded that his friends had made a “dangerous choice” and urged him to be honest about his reasons for refusing to eat food they’d cooked.

He also asked how to respond to this breach in their longtime friendship bond.

Many readers seem to believe that I had endorsed the dangerous practice of ingesting mushrooms found in the woods. Readers have called my response everything from “atrocious” to “potentially fatal.”

The man who wrote to me — a veteran teacher of environmental science — emphasized in his query how dangerous it is to eat foraged mushrooms. (“Amanita” is a deadly mushroom — also known as the “Death Cap” mushroom.)

Additionally, I assumed that it is common knowledge that mushrooms can be poisonous and even deadly — and the large reader response reflecting how dangerous this was seems to confirm my faith in this common knowledge.

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