Mainly, this story is good news: Chinese fisheries have recently succeeded in breeding non-poisonous pufferfish, which eliminates the possibility that their toxins would sicken or even kill humans. Until recently, Chinese authorities banned restaurants from serving the fish, relegating it to the black market. But the South China Morning Post now reports that since the Chinese ban was lifted in 2016, the number of restaurants serving the fish has blown up. (That is a sly pufferfish joke.) In Japan, only chefs who undergo specialized training are permitted to serve the fish, and public-health emergencies do still occur.
So yes, we applaud these toxin-free pufferfish, who allow diners to consume this aquatic delicacy without fear of poisoning. But there is one casualty to this otherwise rosy story: One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish, the eleventh episode of The Simpsons’ second season. The episode centers on a trip the Simpsons take to new sushi restaurant The Happy Sumo, where Homer orders sushi made from fugu, or poisonous pufferfish. Because the trained chef is too busy locking lips with Edna Krabappel, a newbie chef attempts the tricky toxin-removal cuts. Homer subsequently ingests pufferfish poison and is told he has less than a day to live. Hijinks ensue.
The thought that this episode, one of my favorites, will one day be nonsensical to a generation of Chinese children is for some reason unsettling to me this morning. Kate, don’t you have bigger fish to fry?, you ask. Yes, but first, I’ll have to get my hands on one of these new nonpoisonous takifugu.