"I learned that later."
When US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was reported to have eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms during a recent trip to China, it raised a peculiar question: Did she get high?
Sadly — at least for comedic purposes — Yellen did not embark on a magical journey into the outer realms of human consciousness and become one with the cosmos, as she told CNN. In fact, she didn't know she was eating mushrooms that had psychedelic properties until after the fact.
"There was a delicious mushroom dish," Yellen said. "I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties. I learned that later."
The mushrooms in question, locally known as jian shou qing, are a type of wild mushroom that is used as a culinary ingredient in Yunnan, a landlocked province in China that borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. The fungus has powerful psychedelic properties unless you cook them properly.
Disappointingly, Yellen said the shrooms had neither she nor anybody else around the dinner table tripping.
"But all of us enjoyed the mushrooms, the restaurant, and none of us felt any ill effects from having eaten them," she said.
While her trip to China wasn't exactly psychedelic, it was successful in one regard: elevating the profile of the mushrooms she ate among the Chinese populace who avidly read about Yellen's dinner on Weibo or watched a televised segment about the meal and the fungus on China’s state news agency Xinhua.
The dinner also sparked a surge of interest in Yi Zuo Yi Wang, the Yunnan restaurant chain she visited during her trip. More people were ordering the same mushroom dish Yellen dined on in the wake of her trip, according to a previous CNN report on the dinner.
Perhaps, we should approach them as the Chinese do: something to be enjoyed responsibly.
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