Thursday, December 29, 2005

Save a Little Bit for the Coroner

I was cleaning off my desk the other day (to make room for quilting project overflow) when I found the application form for "Membership in the New West Virginia Mushroom Club." A friend gave it to me about 18 months ago, but something has kept me from writing a check and sending it in. Perhaps this quote from the "Disclaimer" section will explain my reluctance. It occupies at least a quarter of the printed matter on the application form.

...There is always the possibility that you can get sick or die after eating a mushroom, even if you have safely consumed the exact same genus, species and variety before. No matter what the cause, if you do get sick or die after eating a mushroom or after eating a prepared dish made available at a mushroom foray, it's not the fault of the attendees at the foray, the club, or the club's members or officers. The club has no control over the identification of mushrooms or other foods prepared by foray attendees and it's possible that a dish can be labeled as containing one or more mushrooms that were misidentified by the chef. Also, be aware that, after our foray mycologists identify a specimen and place it on a plate on the foray exhibition tables, that does not necessarily mean that the mushroom you see on the plate is the same mushroom labeled on the identification tag. We have seen instances where foray attendees pick up and study a specimen and then inadvertently return it to the wrong dish on the table. So a specimen placed on a dish labeled as a species that is edible may not necessarily be the same mushroom the mycologist initially identified and placed on that plate. Also, some specimens may not have been identified by the foray mycologists, but by enthusiastic, but mistaken, amateurs hoping to help out. For these reasons, you should always identify mushrooms to your own satisfaction before cooking or eating them. Finally, please use sensible precautions before eating any mushroom, even if you feel certain about its identity: eat only a small amount and save a specimen for analysis by personnel in the emergency room, hospital laboratory or coroner's office.

I confess we eat wild mushrooms whenever we find them, and never save a specimen for analysis by personnel in the coroner's office.

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