Eating is supposed to be a pleasure, but it can also become a high-risk activity. Eating certain dishes and products poses a health hazard, such as Japanese puffer fish. Would you be willing to risk suffering from food poisoning? The Egyptians do, and they do it every year during the spring holidays eating fermented fish.
In Egypt it is celebrated after the Orthodox Pacua on Sham El-Nessim, a festival that unites Muslims and Copts alike to welcome spring. One of the most typical customs of the holidays is to eat the fesikh, a fish similar to mullet that is allowed to dry with salt to ferment. The problem is that there is a risk of botulism If it is not prepared correctly.
The Egyptian Ministry of Health has been trying for years raise public awareness of the risks of consuming the fesikh that does not comply with all health guarantees, but many people start preparing it ignoring the recommendations. Especially dangerous are the many street vendors that offer fish on the streets, without complying with regulations.
Where is the problem in eating fesikh? To prepare this traditional dish the fish it is allowed to dry whole in the sun and then cured with salt, producing fermentation. The result has to be quite unpleasant for the uninitiated, and in fact it is difficult to distinguish a rotten Fesikh in poor condition from that which has been prepared correctly and without risks.
If the fish is not eviscerated and is not cured with enough salt, it can develop bacteria that cause poisoning and botulism. More or less serious hospitalizations occur every year, which on more than one occasion have resulted in the death of some intoxicated.
But despite all the warnings from the authorities, the Egyptian population is not willing to give up what is one of their most beloved typical dishes. Beyond its taste, which is not everyone's taste, fesikh has strong cultural connotations associated, festive and family, and it is difficult to break the traditions. Although they are a health risk.
If I was suddenly told that some of the typical festive dishes that I like the most is dangerous to my health, it might be hard for me to give it up. Although I can't think of a similar example in our gastronomy, there are traditional dishes that many people "force" to eat during some parties, such as chicken coops in San Isidro. But would we be willing to take the risk of food poisoning?