Restaurants & Bars 1

Back to Fugu

StephenB | May 27, 2003 11:12 AM

Let's revisit the argument about Fugu. I claimed that part of the attraction was the flirtation with danger, perhaps death. A couple of Chowhounds said I was guilty of a "misconception," and they cited a New Zealand newsletter (a rather remote source, I'd say) that contains an interview with a restaurant owner in Minato-ku, plus a vague reference to Tony Bourdain, whose book "Kitchen Confidential" persuaded me that he is a poseur, given to hyperbole, and whose chainsmoking disqualifies him from saying what's dangerous and what's not.

I solicited the view of someone I know to be reliable, my college roommate, Marshall Childs, who is a professor of linguistics at a Japanese university and who has lived in Japan for 20 years. He responded:

"Fugu has poison all through its body, some places more than others, females more than males, and more or less depending on the time of year. You can get stoned on fugu, and some people aim to to that -- obviously with the connivance of chefs. This is a kind of risk-taking that I can imagine in Japan, but not so much in the U.S., at least until fugu reaches teenagers who would otherwise sniff glue.

"So my hypothesis is that some customers, and of course some chefs, put themselves at risk. Also I wonder if deaths from fugu in Japan have increased in the last 10 years, in line with a general increase in suicides as businesses fail. A second source of suicide by fugu would, of course, be chefs whose customers have died from it."

Marshall refers us to the website below which is NOT produced by a restaurateur seeking business:

Fugu chefs in Japan study 5-7 years to gain their certificate, they have special knives and a cadre of assistants, and still people die. Where, please, is the misconception?


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