Each one of us has his own stomach; it is not the stomach of
another. Lois Long likes lamb chops. Esther Dam doesn’t. Ralph
Ferrara prefers the way his aunt cooks mushrooms to the way
anybody else does, to wit in olive oil with garlic. As far as I’m
concerned they’re cooked in butter, salt, and pepper and that’s
that. (Now and then with the addition of some cream, sometimes
sweet, sometimes sour, and less often a little lemon juice.)
Once I followed a recipe for stuffed morels under glass. When
we got around to eating them we couldn’t tell what we were
tasting. The dish suggested fancy restaurant food. ¶ Henry
Cowell told me that years ago in Palo Alto two Stanford botany
professors assured him that a mushroom he had found was edible.
He ate it and was very ill. Realizing he had eaten other things
at the same meal and believing that the teachers knew what they
were talking about, he tried the mushroom not once but twice
again, becoming seriously sick each time. ¶ Charles McIlvaine
was able to eat almost anything, providing it was a fungus.
People say he had an iron stomach. We take his remarks about
edibility with some skepticism, but his spirit spurs us on.
Alexander Smith, obliged as a scientist to taste each new
mushroom he finds, is made ill by almost every one of them.
Mushroom poisoning is nothing to laugh about. Nancy Wilson Ross
told me of a gardener on Long Island who had always eaten
mushrooms he collected, who made a mistake, nearly killing
himself by eating one of the amanitas. He recovered and lives
but has never been the same since. He is more or less permanently
debilitated. I went out in the woods in northern Vermont without
any breakfast. (This was about eight years ago.) I began to eat
several species raw. Among them was Boletus piperatus, which is
said to be edible even though it has pores with red mouths, a
danger sign according to many authorities. By noon I was ill,
wretchedly so. I was sick for twelve hours. Every now and then
I managed to tell the Lippolds, whose guest I was, not to worry,
that I wasn’t going to die.