I survived the deadliest meal in the world

The symptoms begin after a few minutes. First comes a tingling in the lips and tongue, pronounced but nothing terrible. Soon afterwards there is nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Next the subject begins to experience a more serious numbness in their limbs, often while sweating and drooling uncontrollably. Weakness and shaking follow, then gradual paralysis of the diaphragm, a catastrophic drop in blood pressure, respiratory failure, blueness around the lips, fingers and toes, cardiac arrest and death.

The whole process, from the moment you eat a poisonous slice of pufferfish until your last breath, takes somewhere between 17 minutes and a few hours. You remain conscious throughout. There is no antidote.

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If you are reading this, however, I will have survived. In Japan, chefs are trained to prepare the fish, known there as fugu, by carefully removing the most toxic parts and serving just the filet, usually as sashimi, which should contain only minuscule quantities of tetrodotoxin (TTX). It is a serious business, as TTX – the same neurotoxin found in poison dart frogs and the blue ringed octopus – is roughly 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide. It is illegal to import fugu commercially into the UK, so the sashimi I am about to eat has been flown over in small quantities to be served as the first course in a free banquet of potentially lethal delicacies. The event has been organised by Remember a Charity, who hope to encourage people to think about their deaths, and leave money to good causes.

Some celebrities are in attendance when I arrive at the venue, a crypt in central London. On my table, we take comfort from thinking that no charity would want the blood of Christopher Biggins on its hands. One of the organisers is Gregg Wallace from MasterChef, who says he is "confident" that we will all live through this, which is also reassuring in a way.

Yet when the fugu arrives, we do go rather quiet before we tuck in. In fact, the translucent flesh has little taste beyond something faintly seasidey. More noticeable is how much you have to chew it, compared with most raw fish. "It's a texture, not a flavour, isn't it?" Wallace says when he passes by. Like eating sections of a condom, would be my description. "We could use some signs of how we'd die on the menu," says Stephanie, the young woman beside me.

Far more interesting, and safer, is the patty of curried ackee – Jamaica's version of the Cornish pasty. When raw and unripe, ackee contains hypoglycin, which causes Jamaican vomiting sickness, a potentially fatal condition. When cooked properly like this, however, it has a distinctive bittersweet flavour. For good measure, the chef has spiced it with mercifully small quantities of naga bhut jolokia chilli, the hottest in the world, used to make police pepper sprays.

Also excellent is the kluwak nut pasta with false morels. The nuts, which grow in Indonesia and Malaysia, contain deadly levels of hydrogen cyanide when fresh. With proper fermentation and cooking, however, they usually do not. Indeed they make a pleasant, walnutty paste, served to us flavoured with thyme inside a pierogi. This floats in a broth of porcini and false morels (sourced from "a known supplier" in Scandinavia), which are almost as delicious as real morels, and just as gritty. Uncooked, these are known to contain monomethylhydrazine, a deadly poison – and also, as it happens, a rocket fuel used in the moon landings.

Nobody at my table takes to the snake wine, however. It is revolting. The venom from the unfortunate cobra and scorpion who were steeped in it may have been deactivated, but if a watery lemonish vinegar is the result, you wonder why the Vietnamese bother with the whole thing. Desserts of chewy macaroons and peanut brittle (of course) are an improvement, if a little heavy on the cyanide, which is present in bitter almonds (Very poisonous indeed if you eat too many ).

In truth, although the cooks who worked with them were clearly skilled, I can't say that deadly ingredients are worth risking for their flavour. Risk for its own sake, though, has some benefits; people don't get up on tightropes for the view. This must be why today, as I fret over every twang of indigestion, I do feel just a little more alive.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.