The Most (Disgustingly) Dangerous Fish in the World

I’ve been sick, so I haven’t had time to create mischief this week. My appetite has finally come back. But I still have plenty of food-related stories and advice to share, so stick with me.

I’m going to start with a disclaimer: This story is gross. Real gross. It involves butt stuff. But there is a purpose to it, because there’s information here you might not know, and won’t want to learn the hard way. There are no disgusting photos — so it’s more or less safe for work. The only danger is you laughing so hard your boss comes over and sees you’re fooling around on the Internet.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
But instead of a patient, it’s a bunch of sushi.

Escolar is an absolutely delicious fish. Like all the troublemakers in the world, con artists, and trickster gods, it has multiple names. You’ll see it called snake mackerel, walu (or waloo), butterfish, or the most deceitful name of all, super white tuna (or sometimes just white tuna). It is not, unfortunately, actual tuna. It’s a mackerel with white, buttery, flesh. It’s very common at sushi restaurants, in the form of nigiri, sashimi, or wrapped up in a maki (sushi roll) combination.

With that in mind, let’s roll back the clock to a few years back.

I was out on a date with a girl I was seeing at the time. When you’re going out on a date, apparently that means you’re supposed to get sushi. Because nothing screams romance louder than raw fish. We were at a place with a relatively boring menu; think California rolls, rainbow rolls — the inoffensive American-style treatment of sushi that most of you are probably used to. The usual suspects didn’t appeal to me, so I figured I’d go out my usual routine and get a plate of sashimi. I ordered a single fish: The super white tuna. I ordered confidently and felt classy, like I knew what I was doing.

By Kirk K, on flickr. Thanks, homeboy.

I’d had super white tuna plenty of times. Back then, I wasn’t writing about food, so my marine knowledge was limited. I thought it was actual tuna. It had a silky texture, an exceedingly rich flavor, and with a little bit of soy sauce, it made for a wonderful bite of food. The portion was generous, too. I’d estimate it was about eight ounces of the delicious fish. Naturally, I ate it all happily.

We had a terrific time, and since she had to get up early the next day, I dropped her off afterwards, gave her a sweet kiss goodnight, and headed home to get some sleep. I put on my favorite old pajama pants, fell into bed, and hit dreamland at full speed.

When I woke up the next day, groggy-eyed, I stepped out of bed, stretched, scratched my balls (all men do this when they wake up, by the way), and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. As I stepped into the bathroom, I noticed that something felt…different. I reached to the back of my pants and found that they were soaked in some kind of liquid.

Did I spill a drink in bed? I wondered. I looked around the bed, but there were no glasses on the floor. There were, however, some strange wet-looking orange spots on my bedsheets, in the little spot I’d happily curled up in.

My stomach made an awful noise, and I barely hit the toilet in time. Great. I’m sick, I thought. Maybe they left the fish out too long and served it to me anyway. Jerks. I hope she isn’t sick too.

I went, violently. And it was a windy one. Windy enough to make my ears pop. When I finished, I had the strange sensation that my rear end was covered in something wet. So I turned around and almost passed out at what I saw.

The toilet was full of oil. But not a clear oil, or even a brown one (I know, I know). But a bright orange oil. You know the kind of oil that comes off pepperoni on a pizza? That was exactly what it looked like. Hot pepperoni oil.

This is a semi-accurate depiction of what had happened. Thanks,!

It was all over the inside of the bowl, all over the water, everywhere.

Oh my God, I thought. Am I dying? Should I go to the emergency room? Is it that color…because I’m bleeding inside? I was genuinely scared. Anyone would have been, in that colorful situation. That’s when my stomach cruelly curled up again. I was on the can for at least an hour, turning the porcelain into an oil-based Jackson Pollack piece, but in only one cruel shade of hot pepperoni oil. And the steady jetstream of grease-spattered wind would just not stop.

I’d agreed to meet with my lady friend again that afternoon to help her with some boxes, since she was moving out of her apartment. I was already late. I hosed myself off really well, threw away my favorite pajama pants, got dressed, and peeled out, my stomach gurgling the entire way.

When I got there, my stomach would not quit. I’d lamely help move boxes around, and hit the bathroom every five minutes, trying to pull off the one-cheek sneak so she wouldn’t hear the utter devastation going on in her bathroom. Each time I went, I had to clean up like a one-man decontamination crew. I even went far enough as to lift the seat so she didn’t know I was browning (oiling) the toilet the entire time.  She didn’t suspect a thing. After I finished helping her, I left in a panic. She probably thought I was being an asshole. I was. Literally.

Later that night, when the action finally started to subside, I pored over the Internet for information on alien orange oil-based diarrhea. Nothing came up, aside from a few small rare diseases that indicated I was basically dying. Until I found a small post on a forum. The entire exchange of posts still exist, in fact, here.

One person’s account:

replied July 16th, 2004
Oily Orange Diarrhea
I ate escolar on tuesday or wednesday, can’t remember which day it was. Anyway, I have the oily orange diarrhea problem and i’m terrified. How long does it take to get through the body. This is disgusting. I smell like cod liver oil or something and my underwear is all stained. I’m really scared
And another:
replied July 18th, 2004
Orange Oily Leakage

This is kind of embarrassing, but I was simply just sitting down at the computer and when I stood up, there was a puddle of an orange oily substance. I could not figure out where is came from. It looked like pizza grease or the grease from tacos. I quickly figured out where it came from, but did not feel a thing. I read some of your discussinons about eating fish, but I had not eaten anything that day except a subway sandwich. Please, if anyone has any idea why this has happened, please let me know. I am trying to get in to see a doctor as soon as possible.


I wasn’t alone. Escolar, as it turns out, contains a wax ester that can cause what’s known as keriorrhea, which translated from Greek means “flow of wax.” Flow of wax. Read that one more time. Flow of wax. The Wikipedia entry (here), straight up calls it “oily diarrhea, oily orange diarrhea, anal leakage, orange oily leakage.” And keriorrhea is mostly caused by one goddamn fish. A fish that’s all over sushi menus in America.

I ended up throwing away another pair of boxers, my jeans, and my bedsheets.

Now that I know — a safe amount to consume is up to six ounces of the stuff, which gives you plenty of wiggle room to enjoy it. I still eat it from time to time, but in very, very, small quantities. It’s still absolutely delicious. And I apologize if this story seems needlessly graphic, especially coming from a food writer who loves to celebrate food in all of its elements. Unfortunately, we’re all still biological creatures, and all food has its consequences. Most of the time you just don’t have to think about it.

Every time I see escolar on a menu now, I think, super white tuna, you stupid son of a bitch, you destroyed my favorite pajama pants.


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