Monday, December 2, 2013


 My mention and picture of the squid a couple of posts back (as seen above) caused a certain amount of idle chat among the literati and fooderati, and indeed on my Facebook page. The thing I ate was actually listed on the menu as “huge squid” – an imprecise term to be sure, but even so it did evoke something a bit more kraken-like. 

Laura Miller offered the information that “The giant squid, or any deep-water-dwelling squid, would not be especially edible because of the high ammonia content in the flesh which allows them to survive at depths where the water pressure is very high.” And she then winsomely added, “This has been your daily pedantry interlude, over and out.”        

Jonathan Gold joined in and said, “I've had relatively giant squid - crudo cut from arcturus, about 45 pounds. It was actually tender and delicious. Not deep sea enough?”

               By then Laura had recalled an article in the New York Times from January 2013 about giant squid which asked, “Would you eat the giant squid if you could?" And then actually quoted Jonathan from that article, "I have had something like giant squid -- flash-grilled arcturus tentacle at Esca in Manhattan. But I draw the line at endangered or threatened species. There are a lot of other things in the world to eat.... The arcturus was delicious, by the way."


Mea   Meanwhile Tammy Fraser thought the picture of my squid was reminiscent of the sliced horse in the movie The Cell, which in turn was based on Damien Hirst’s various sliced-animals-as-art.  

         And I began to wonder whether all flesh should be served that way, sliced but then partially reassembled to reveal its initial form.  Didn't seem such a terrible idea, but then I encountered a real octopus.

I’ve cooked an octopus or two in my time, admittedly not a vast number, but when I found them on sale locally I snagged a couple.  Now, I know there’s a lot of malarkey about how you shouldn’t eat octopuses because they’re so smart, and of course I’ve seen the film of an octopus opening a jar.  But aren’t pigs even smarter?    I do see the issue here – I’m not a monster - and I can understand the argument that says you shouldn’t eat any living creature whatsoever.  But trying to base the morality of meat eating on the intelligence of the thing being eaten, just seems to be asking for trouble.  

There also seems to be a fair bit of malarkey talked about tenderizing octopus. I’ve certainly seen Greek fishermen slamming them on harborside rocks to tenderize them but I’ve always felt that was just displacement activity: these guys hate their job, hate their lives, hate the sea, so they take it out on a some octopus they’ve just stabbed with a spear. 

Anyway the current thinking is that the process of freezing is enough to do the tenderizing and it seemed to be the case with mine.  I dug out a recipe that said stew it in flavored stock for fifty minutes or so and it would be fine – and it was. But this rather alarming thing happened in the course of that cooking.  Whereas  pre-cooking it had looked like a plate of fish (in the picture two above), something amorphous and without personality: once cooked it looked much more like an actually “living” creature.  That head really disturbed me. 

The only thing to do was chop it up, saut√© it and serve it with a kind of risotto.  The head remained uneaten however.    Like I said, I’m not a monster.


  1. I cook squid at least twice a month, made a delicious stir fry last night with a small one I'd frozen fresh a few weeks ago. On a recent trip to Croatia I ate lots of octopus, too. Both cold, lightly cooked as a starter and in an earthy stew with lots of tomato where it had the texture of good tripe. Wonderful.

    1. Hi David - Croatian octopus - sounds good to me. Also sounds perhaps like a very obscure and not so great 1970s psychedelic band.

  2. Perhaps you were correct not to eat that octopus head. Cadmium. Too much cadmium.

    1. Thanks for that word to the wise Mr G.

      Wikip tells me, "In June 2010, McDonald's voluntarily recalled more than 12 million promotional "Shrek Forever After 3D" Collectable Drinking Glasses owing to concerns over cadmium levels in paint pigments used on the glassware." Which would surely make them even more collectable.