Mushrooms: a retrospective by R

It's now been a year since they let me out of the hospital. I was hospitalized with severe mushroom poisoning; my liver and kidneys were literally disintegrating, and I was dehydrating faster than a puddle in the Sahara. First off: I REGRET NOTHING. It was AWESOME. That trip to the hospital was one of the coolest things that have ever happened. There was so much going on within that one short week. Everyone was awesome, and the beds had electric controls, and there was free food, and I had all the cool movie stuff going: IV drips, stern nodding doctors, drama, an emergency chopper (!), fancy medical lingo thrown around, a transplantation (that never happened because I declined and vehemently refused to have another person's liver in my body). I spent the first couple days in a big ol' room with a view, and then was airlifted with the emergency chopper to the state hospital where I got the window spot in a room next to a pretty cool dude with hepatitis. It sounds terrible but it was wicked awesome. Because of how health care works in Denmark, it didn't cost me a dime. I'm such a fucking shit.
I never had the time to get bored because stuff was happening constantly. The only thing that was kinda crap about it was the blood tests (they took them every 4-6 hours and I HATE needles), ongoing dehydration (I'll spare you the details) and pain from disintegrating organs (it was actually nowhere near as bad as you'd think; organs feel pain differently than the rest of you, I guess). Ultimately I made it through without even a semblance of lasting damage (something that baffled the doctors), so all things considered, my dumb luck is almost divine.

But I digress. Amanita phalloides brought me to the hospital, and let me tell you: they DO taste pretty okay. People are right when they say they taste good. I wouldn't go out of my way and say it's the best mushroom ever, but I could definitely find a lot of uses for it in food. The thing with mushrooms is I'm Russian, so mushrooms are a big deal. I know my mushrooms and I know what mushrooms go where. Me eating the death caps was a disgrace to the whole family. I was calling my mother from the liver ward. She was absolutely livid. I made her swear she wouldn't tell anyone. She told everyone. I was the laughing stock of the entire family. For a while I was unable to cope with mushrooms because the sight and smell would make me retch, but it's sort of slowly gotten better.
Unfortunately, I still retch from certain mushrooms, particularly those of the Amanita genus. I used to eat the red mushrooms a lot. Either I'm naturally immune to their chemicals, or I just live in a part of the world where they happen to be relatively innocuous, but I love the red mushrooms. "Fly agarics". The first time I tried them, may years back, I was hoping to trip balls. I don't do drugs or drink alcohol, but mushrooms seemed a relatively innocent way to trip balls. I didn't trip balls, but I loved the taste, so I made it a yearly tradition to collect bags full of them and turn them into mushroom sauce.

There's a number of mushrooms among the Amanitas which are pretty decent edibles. A. muscaria ("fly agaric") is indeed considered edible under certain circumstances. A. caesarea ("Caesar's mushroom") is widely renowned as a delicacy; and A. rubescens ("blusher") isn't half bad, either, being acknowledged as a decent food mushroom in its own right. The ones I ate the most--besides A. muscaria and A. rubescens (I was never lucky enough to find A. caesarea)--were A. citrina (known in some parts of the world as A. mappa). This is what could fuck you up. A. citrina ("false death cap") look almost identical to A. virosa (otherwise known as the "destroying angel"). Sometimes A. phalloides ("death cap") can be pale enough that it looks just like an A. citrina, too. There's a lot of needless risks involved--which I would take--but there is a sure-fire (or so I thought) way to tell them apart from the deadly ones: the smell. A. citrina smell like a moist cellar. Like old potatoes in a bag. It may not be the most appetizing smell, but I'm rather fond of it. When they're cooked the smell improves drastically and they smell like top-grade champignons.
Obviously, no one in their right mind was stupid enough to touch any Amanitas, so when I went mushrooming, I had all the Amanitas in the forest to myself. A metric crapton of the good stuff; A. muscaria, A. rubescens, A. citrina... I was wary of A. virosa and A. phalloides, so I made sure to sniff every single mushroom I plucked if it wasn't red or pink. As long as it smelled of musty cellar, it was fine. I forgot that smell can cling to your fingers...

While it's true that you can distinguish them by smell, the finger-sniffing story was a cover story I gave the doctors to avoid embarrassment. In conclusion, I don't think I'm gonna eat any more A. citrina. Word has it A. citrina even contains the same toxins as A. phalloides and A. virosa, only in much lesser quantities. Just as well. At the same time, I don't think I'll be able to cope with the smell of A. muscaria, as it smells exactly like A. phalloides. In the weeks after I came back from the hospital there was a lingering sickly smell of mushrooms in the air that wouldn't go away. When I think about it I can almost still smell it.

Mushrooms: a retrospective

R

23 February 2016 at 08:22:30 MST

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