Sunday, October 10, 2010

Steak or Pufferfish? Connoisseurs Pick Your Poison

My family and I stopped eating beef about three years ago. The writing was on the wall: Eating beef would kill you. Of course we all know that you can't believe what the government tells you for a second. So when the Japanese government said Japanese beef was okay, and the US government followed suit a year or so later, you knew they were lying. 

American beef producers are up "doo-doo" creek here in Japan. The two biggest importers of US produced beef have announced that they have stopped importing beef from America until the time they "deem it to be safe" (Which means: Until they receive a big enough pay-off to look the other way – until then, forget it.)

But fear not! Japanese consumers are not about to stop eating beef! They will continue to eat it as a delicacy. We have many delicacies in Japan. And beef will soon become one of them!

New Years in Japan: The ritual going to the temple; banging the gong. I did that. I also grabbed one of those little pieces of paper that will tell your fortune for the year. At last, this year will be my luckiest year of my life... "Well it's about time." I think. We burned some incense and prayed to what-ever-God it was we were praying to.

After the temple, my in-laws decide to "really go to town" by taking us to the local "high fallutin'" delicacy restaurant in the entire area: The local "blowfish" restaurant.

I'm not really into eating things that are loaded with deadly neurotoxins. Funny that. But my in-laws are insistent that we go to this restaurant. "It's the best." They say.

Just to bring you up to speed, "Fugu," Blowfish or Pufferfish is one of the most poisonous things you could possibly lay on your palate. The tetrodotoxin is said to be 160,000 times more potent than cocaine! "What's the down side of this argument?" You say? Well let me introduce you to a very famous "Haiku" from Japan:
"Last night he and I ate Fugu,today I carry his coffin."
Japan is very strict as far as granting licenses to people who wish to prepare food. I have met people in America who went to Japan for six months, returned to America and opened sushi restaurants right away. There is no-way in the world that would ever be allowed in this country. I think it requires at least five years working at a sushi restaurant and a few more years working as an "intern" before the Japanese government would ever allow you to have a license to prepare sushi. And if you don't have a license to prepare sushi in Japan, you don't prepare sushi in Japan. Period.

And Blowfish is much more strict. Blowfish is only eaten by the wealthy and the "connoisseurs." Average "Joe-Blow" (like you and me) don't eat blowfish unless it is a very special occasion... Like New Years.

Blowfish poison attacks the central nervous system and there is no antidote. It is said to be 1000 times more powerful than the poison that the Amazon Indians use on their arrows. Why do Japanese people eat this? Why do people climb high mountains in the freezing cold? Good questions.

Another famous "Haiku:"
"A man who is his own sushi chefhas a fool for a customer."
People who get Blowfish poisoning usually lose control of their fingers and hands at first. That's why if someone drops their chopsticks at a Blowfish restaurant, the entire staff will freeze for that split second as if someone dropped a pile of dishes at a Western restaurant.

After that, they lose control of all of their appendages. Their shoulders, arms, and legs begin to have sharp, painful sensations. Their heart and lungs cease to function. Soon they become a sloppy, disgusting, mass of "Jello." After that there's no hope for them. They'll slouch down in their chairs, drooling uncontrollably, and have to be carried out to the dumpster like that days trash. It's not a pretty sight.

So my mother and father in law insist on going to this Blowfish restaurant. I recommend going back home, as there is a comedy re-run on TV, a bag of potato chips, and a few cans of beer in the fridge at home. But no! My wife tells me I am being overly paranoid.

She tells me that the last time someone died from eating blowfish was way back in last year! Yeah, I guess two guys decided that they'd save money and prepare the blowfish at home. Well I'm sure they had a great party.... Lots of laughs and drinks for all.... Sure, they were laughing all the way to their funeral the next day.

Anyhow, we walk into this Blowfish restaurant and it's full of New Years revelers! Can you believe it? These people are poisoning themselves and laughing while doing it! My father-in-law orders some "poison on a plate." I try to drink as much as possible, hoping the alcohol might kill the poison (or kill me first thereby saving the pain).

The Blowfish comes out. I don't wanna touch it. But, after all this is New Years, and I'm with my in-laws. They give me that peer-pressure stuff and force me to eat a bite.... I do...

One bite. That's it. No more.

I bite it. It tastes like.... Well, I don't know what it tastes like. I wash it down. It's gooey. Moments later I start to feel twitching in my shoulders. I drop my chopsticks. I slump over. I’m drooling and slurring my speech.... That always happens to me when I drink too much.

I drink some more. I feel pain. Pain everywhere. My legs, my arms, my head.....

Later on, back at home, I fall into my futon (bed) and pray that I'm not gonna die that night.

My father-in-law walks into the bedroom, points at me, and says to my wife, "What's wrong with him?" My wife, rolls her eyes and says,
"He thinks he's been poisoned by blowfish!"

"Oh, really? comes the reply, "Tell him if he really wants to be poisoned, we'll go eat steak imported from America tomorrow night."

Another Haiku I just wrote:
"Steak or Fugu?connoisseurs pick your poison."

This article originally appeared on Lew Rockwell

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