When my husband grocery shops solo, I never know what to expect. A package of mushrooms becomes two. (BOGO!) Two mangos become four. Sometimes he’ll surprise me with my favorite tabouleh or seasonal pomegranates.
A few weeks ago, I opened the refrigerator and found an octopus next to the lettuce.
For years, we ate octopus as sashimi—rubbery, chewy, and fun.
Then on a business trip, my husband experienced crispy grilled octopus. That fond memory made it impossible for him to resist the eight-limbed cephalopod at the seafood counter.
After living in China, I made crispy hanging duck. 🦆It was labor-intensive. Never again.
Surely, octopus would be easier.
Google told me to freeze, thaw, then boil the meat to make it tender. The thawed octopus slipped and slithered through my bare hands. I sacrificed a pair of gardening gloves to wrestle it into a pot of boiling water. The head lolled to one side. As it simmered, it perked up like an alien. After the allotted time, the paring knife easily penetrated the body.
With heavy-duty tongs, I pulled it from the water. I turned the eery empty eyeholes away from me so I could sever the purple-tinged tentacles.
The appendages soaked in a bowl of chili marinade for twenty-four hours.
The next day, my husband bought five more—all the fishmonger had left.
The recipe for octopus #2 instructed me to remove the tentacles and head before boiling. For an hour, the slimy octopus and my knife slid around the countertop like it was a skating rink.
I placed raw body parts in a pan of hot oil. The tentacles curled as if alive. The head shriveled to the size of a small Chinese dumpling. The house smelled greasy for days.
Meanwhile, I learned other methods for tenderizing the beast—soak it in milk, bang it with a rolling pin, massage the entire body five-hundred times.
Octopus #3 became a simple seafood salad. But the process was NOT simple.
I was over octopus.
I gave #4 to my artist daughter to become a series of photos or the inspiration for an abstract painting.
Would my daughter the chef like to cook one when she visits next month? “No thanks.”
My son said, “Why don’t you eat squid like normal people?”
In the Old Testament, God told the Israelites they could eat creatures of the sea with fins and scales. Everything else was detestable. I should have read that before I started.
Colleen Diaz wrote an article for Focus on the Family for kids: Eight Lessons from an Octopus. Perhaps the Octopus is better observed than eaten.
I have two octopi left. 🐙🐙
What would YOU do with them?