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"A Sad Fish Tale, or Against the Advice of His Wife the General Orders the Fugu Blue Plate Special"

Pavel Fedora

Fedora, an artist almost unknown outside of a particular neighborhood in Minsk, tended to paint dry-as-dust moral lessons and graphic homilies, which accounted for his unpopularity and forced him to remain a Civil Servant, Eighth Rank for all of his life instead of becoming another Polypzinsi or Bapsbornovich, artists who were the toast of downtown Minsk, at least on the other side of the vodka works.

In this particular painting Fedora illustrates the old Russian proverb, "It is better that a man listen to his wife than to eat a cheap fish meal and drop dead." He uses as his models the family of the notoriously unlucky General Fyodor Fyodorovna Fyodorovnich, who one time had his breeches shot off as he straddled a cannon at an inopportune moment. This was also the reason attributed to the Fyodorovnich's failure to have children.

One evening in St. Petersburg the General and his wife were the guests of some other officers in a Japanese restaurant, celebrating the absence of information about the outcome of a battle somewhere. Carried away by the devil-may-care enthusiasm of the other revellers, the General misguidedly asked a waitress what was the speciality of the house. She claimed that fugu — that exquisite fish dish which is fatal if not properly prepared — was the chef's masterpiece.

On hearing this the General's wife, Clementineovna, fell to her knees, begging him not to order the dish, reminding him that it was a take-out order of fugu that had wiped out the General's entire family during the last pogrom festival. He, forgetting the well-known proverb quoted above, laughed her to scorn and ordered the dish anyway, with a side order of pickled beets and eel-in-aspic as a chaser. 

Needless to say, the fugu chef had the night off and the fish was prepared by the servant girl who normally was not even trusted to turn the knob of the pepper mill the right way. One bite of the entrée and the General turned bright blue, screamed that his lips were dissolving and fell lifeless to the floor. His wife struck him repeatedly on the chest with a brick, an old peasant cure for fugu poisoning, but it did no good. She was forced to inherit all his money, estates and serfs and retired to a dacha with only a well-endowed stableboy for company, where she spent her widowhood being chased naked through the forest in good weather.


Acquisition funded in part by Benihana® Restaurants. "We do fugu right!"™



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