Whatever caused the first guy to figure out how to eat a blowfish and live — an attempt to impress a girl or perhaps a wealthy patron — we may never know, but we can be grateful that he did.

My first fugu experience was when a friend's brother had just graduated from cooking school and had a license to prepare the potentially lethal fish. When I put a piece of the paper-thin sliced raw flesh on my tongue, there was a tingle, and an ever so slight numbing. The one-pot dish in which we cooked the chunks of flesh clinging to bone was revelatory. Flavor, texture, bite after bite of succulence.

I now know, after having prepared and eaten many a fugu myself, that the tingle on the tongue was not the norm. Somewhere along the line the flesh had been contaminated with the poison that resides mostly in the internal organs.