Let's face it. We have all had a puffer fish moment at some time or another. You know the kind of thing. You are at an Indian restaurant; you woof down too many poppadoms followed by a heavy duty Madras and enough naan bread to sink a small penguin (my other P option). Then you glug down a Kingfisher or two. At some point in the evening you waddle to the bathroom and catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.
The thing that stares back at you is no longer human. It's a puffer fish.
The puffer fish is known for its ability to expand its body and puff up when threatened, revealing its spikes. Now should you ever see this phenomenon, it's not a great idea to pet the fish uttering the words: "Here puffer, puffer."
More specifically, there's nothing wrong with uttering the words, beyond the fact you will look like an idiot and be shunned by other folks. But petting the puffer is definitely a foolhardy course of action. The puffer is the second most poisonous creature in the world after the Golden Poison Frog. Given that there are a lot of species out there, this is something of an achievement.
There are 120 known species of puffer fish alone and they are found in tropical waters. When not puffed up they can be hard to identify, coming in many shapes and colors. Generally they resemble oversized tadoples with bulging eyes. Puffer fish also have a shed load of names. The family is called etradonidae and they may also be known as puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, honey toads, toadies, sugar toads and sea squab.
The only other advice I can give is don't hire a puffer fish as a driving instructor. See the episode of Sponge Bob where aforementioned yellow sponge drives Mrs. Puff nuts.
Oh and don't eat them, of course....
Except people do. The Japanese have eaten fugu (which means river pig and is yet another name for the puffer) for centuries, despite the fact its toxins can paralyze the victim while still conscious as asphyxia sets in, a process that can severely curtail one's interest in dessert.
There's a rather strict system now in place if you want to sell fugu to the public. Chefs have to undergo an apprenticeship of up to three years. There's a written test and a fish-identification test as well as a practical test and the chance to eat the fish. Only 35 percent of applicants pass. A small percentage pass out for good.
Despite the precautions, which extend to puffer knives being kept in a separate place, about six people die a year from eating the puffer fish in Japan and up to 64 are hospitalized. Oh and you can pay as much as $50 per serving for the pleasure of dining on puffer. A famous victim was the actor Bandō Mitsugorō who died in 1975 after consuming four large liver portions. The liver is one of the most risky parts of the puffer to eat.
I'm not sure if puffer tastes like chicken. But, all in all, sticking to chicken is probably the way to fly. Call me boring and all that...
Useless Fact About the Puffer Fish
Wade Davis, who wrote about the famous Clairvius Narcisse case of becoming a 'zombie,' claimed that puffer fish toxin, made a person seem to be dead and later a zombie. Now some people think that Narcisse was simply mentally ill, and Davis had coached or at least been too willing to believe his story.
What Not To Say to a Puffer Fish
I'd like to eat your liver with some fava beans and a Chianti