Living dangerously, on the edge, pushing the boundaries between life and death, an adrenaline junkie seeking the next jolt. This is how I roll. Every day. All day. Yet a challenge remained untested and chiding me from afar. It was time. Time to face the taunting challenge two and half years in the background.
I picked my wardrobe carefully. Comfortable shoes in which to face an uncertain afternoon. A dress for respectability -and in case Spouse couldn`t find one in which to bury me. A wallet full of cash. I informed the Offspring of my whereabouts for the search party`s starting point in case of my untimely demise. This time my Wing Man waited at the Shibuya Train Station instead of the car most thought carried a diplomat.
I had chosen to roll a dangerous set of dice. Could I manage this dangerous Japanese foe and live to blog the tail?
Cue Geisha, hair all akimbo playing wildly on the shamisen.
It was time to face this foe.
Only licensed chefs and restaurants can handle pufferfish, “fugu.” Knowing immediate death ensues when the wrong body part is ingested makes the government nervous so the serving and handling is closely regulated. Apparently it is a pleasant death preceded by convulsions and tremors. Some locations are rumored to serve portions of pufferfish that will guarantee the pleasing tremors and seizures without the pesky and more permanent accompanying death. I brought along some Benadryl just in case as I find it useful in all kinds of life threatening circumstances. (Usually not my own- often when someone around me is at risk of being sent to the great beyond- bug bites, crying children on planes, keeping the dog from barking while I`m taking a nap, etc)
Andretti-san had researched our spot. Known to be a man of few words and big actions, this was, not surprisingly, his favorite meal. It was easy to find. This is why I haven`t learned to read Japanese Kanji- with signs like this it`s a time waster.
Just in case we didn`t look up, a tank of unknowing pufferfish swam against the glass out front.
Restaurants serving fugu serve only fugu, so we ordered fugu. Andretti-san ordered the “Fugu every which way.” (But loose)
1) Fugu Skin marinated in ponzu:
2) Fugu Sashimi:
3) Fried fugu with eyeballs. (Haha, that`s a ginkgo nut)
4) Grilled Fugu.
Just in case we hadn`t gotten enough fugu, we decided ordering more would ensure a complete taste test. Andretti-san explained that as an American I could eat more than the average sumo and ordered more. The waiter was unconvinced.
5) Fugu marinated in ponzu. We ate several orders of that. Everything tastes better slathered in ponzu.
6) Boiled fugu and vegetables.
Sashimi style fugu has a firmer texture than most fish. Cooked it is like- God I hate to say it- chicken. ( Emeril Lagasse come up with a better simile, neh? ) I don`t recall eating the eyes, however, I`m sure they were somewhere in the meal as it was the only thing other than the table we didn`t eat.
7) If you are wondering why the pictures are getting progressively worse, it`s because we also had fugu in sake which is where the tails and fins are served. The whole thing is lit and covered with a top. The box contains the overflowed sake. After several sakes I accused Andretti-san of serving mine in a trick dribble cup which would explain why sake stains were all over the front of my dress. Unfortunately it was the sake dripping off the sake cup as it marinated in the cup.
About mid way through the meal my hands and feet started tingling and I began a frantic dig through my purse for Benadryl hurling lipsticks, old receipts and tampons all over the restaurant eventually dumping its contents on the bench. Andretti-san assured me it was the sake and not the fugu as he quietly collected all the paraphernalia I had littered throughout the restaurant and reassured the other patrons I was leaving soon.
Alas, our meal came to an end. This was to be our last experiment with food. It was our official good-bye.
My wing man, partner in perilous plots to outwit the bank, sensei and tomodachi, and somewhere way down the list, driver, was moving on to the new family taking our place. I am now without my friend and accomplice.
But don`t worry readers. The story of Andretti-san will be told on its own. And it won`t be a sappy story ending with tearful good byes. Oh no- it will be quite the opposite….
Kanpai! (Cheers in Japanese)