Ask Amy responds to reader criticism about recent column

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.

To repeat: DO NOT EVER INGEST FORAGED MUSHROOMS, ON THEIR OWN OR COOKED INTO FOOD. Even a small amount can be extremely dangerous.

In my opinion, where I really missed the mark in my response was where I suggested ways that Avoiding Amanita might somehow get beyond this incident, which was caused by disrespectful and irresponsible “friends.”

Upon reflection, I believe that this man now has two things to avoid: Amanita … and these friends.

I thank everyone for their emphatic concern.

Dear Amy: Responding to the question from “Open Minded Daughter,” and as the parent of donor-conceived children, may I recommend that donor conceived people reach out to the Donor Sibling Registry?

There’s so much more to say (or write) that would be helpful for donor-conceived people and the parents of donor-conceived people who might or might not have shared this information with their children.

Directing them to this resource would be a great start.

Channing: Thank you. I have heard from many people responding to this letter, where “Open Minded Daughter,” an adult, had recently learned through DNA testing that she was conceived through donor sperm.

Open Minded’s parents had not disclosed this important fact to her, and while she seemed quite sanguine about their choice to keep this from her, other readers were not quite so understanding.

Criticism of my advice centered on the fact that I didn’t take these parents to task for not disclosing their daughter’s DNA heritage to her.

I was responding to the writer’s own attitude toward her folks, which was (at this point) extremely understanding and careful. Somewhat ironically, she had now assumed the reverse burden of disclosing her DNA heritage to them.

As I have said many times in this space, it is every person’s right to know their DNA heritage. This is a basic human right, and parents who conceive children through donation should tell them during early childhood, and should continue to be open about this fact throughout a donor conceived person’s life.

The Donor Sibling Registry ( is one of several resources available to donor-conceived people (DCP), assisting them to connect with DNA siblings and other biological relatives.

The U.S. Donor Conceived Council ( also has helpful information for donors, parents and donor-conceived people.

Dear Amy: Regarding the woman (“Anonymous”) who was annoyed that her brother and sister bragged incessantly about their grandchildren … my mother once told me that she wondered if she was the only one who didn’t have perfect children — or the only one who didn’t lie.

T: Let’s get this wisdom printed onto a T-shirt. I’ll be the first granny to wear it.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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