Yesterday’s lunch

October 10, 2012 • 12:30 pm

I’m not generally fond of eating cephalopods, but I was told many times that the Portuguese really know how to cook octopus. So when I went to lunch yesterday with my Portuguese publisher, I broke down and ordered the restaurant’s speciality—octopus, oven-roasted with garlic and olive oil:

It was spectacularly delicious, crunchy on the outside, meaty on the inside, and with a delicious mild flavor accented by lashings of garlic.  If Americans could cook octopus like this I’d eat it all the time!

59 thoughts on “Yesterday’s lunch

    1. I can think of a couple of restaurants (one Basque, one Italian) within five miles of my apartment that serve great octopus, in various preparations.

      Now I grant that you’re not going to find it done well (or at all) in any random cheap eatery in the States. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be had.

    1. For all intents and purposes, squid are not octopus. Not even close, like humans and bush babies, although I wouldn’t eat either. Crab, yes!

        1. I’ve eaten bushbaby. I hadn’t realised what it was until I’d scarfed down a bowlful. The octopus looks much nicer.

      1. No implication that they were octopi …

        Just fellow cephalopods. And having often eaten both, I can say that they eat pretty similarly, most of the time.

  1. We can cook it like that. It’s a relatively easy and quick fish to prepare. I do it on top of the stove because my oven is on the (temporary) blink.
    And octopus or squid are really reasonable fish. At my fish market I get squid for around $7.99 a pound, or less.

      1. There’s not such thing as “fish” biologically.

        The only consistent definition is the culinary one.

    1. PZ will have to display an elaborate work of culinary art based on feline flesh in full color to adequately retaliate for this daring salvo. A sandwich just won’t begin to compete. Does he have the tentacles to display cooked kitty on the cat crazed Web?

  2. Yes. The most basic cafés and shacks in Mediterranean countries typically cook squid and octopus better than the best restaurants elsewhere. Tender, juicy and sweet versus tasteless and leathery.

    1. It seems axiomatic that if they’re serving you food that’s tasteless and leathery, then they’re not one of the best restaurants.

  3. brings back memories-one of the best meals I ever had was a dish of calamari in a Portuguese resteraunt in Toronto around 1982.

    Just wonderful-every bite.

    1. Thank you for your thinly veiled accusation of hypocrisy. I assume you don’t eat meat or wear leather? Cows are sentient too, you know.

      And the octopi aren’t jailed for life like beluga whales. Do you understand a difference between putting an animal in a small enclose where it’s miserable for years and taking it from the wild and killing it mercifully (as octopuses are) for food? If octopi were mass-farmed in small, restrictive aquaria in which they showed signs of stress, then I wouldn’t eat them.


      1. And the octopi aren’t jailed for life like beluga whales.

        well, technically most aquaria do have one or two on display.

        1. taking it from the wild and killing it mercifully

          Which of course has lead to serious declines in octo populations all over the med, which is why there is a big push to farm them now.

      2. Sorry, Jerry. I really wouldn’t call you a hypocrite. Frankly, I’m not sure (and certainly may be wrong) about the ethics of each case.

        I found it hard to disagree with you about the belugas, yet I wasn’t perturbed when I saw belugas (and other cetaceans) “in jail” at SeaWorld in San Diego a couple of years back.

        I’ve eaten squid and octopus in the past, but have stopped in the last few years as I’ve thought more about how smart these animals are. (I wouldn’t have eaten whale meat at any time, knowing as far back as I can remember that they were intelligent.)

        And actually I do eat meat and wear leather. Yes, cows are sentient; so it’s not really about sentience (I just latched onto how I remembered you’d described the belugas), more about level of intelligence.

        But if that’s a criterion for ethical meat eating, where do you (generic “you”) draw the line?

        Eating cows, pigs, sheep and more is culturally accepted, but that doesn’t make it right. I like eating meat, but that certainly doesn’t make it right. I like bacon most of all, but pigs are probably the smartest of the bunch. Are they as smart (or smarter) than octopodes?

        I have a reluctance to read Peter Singer (for example) on this issue; I don’t want to be convinced that I should give up eating what I like!

        So, honestly, how could I think of you as a hypocrite?

        “Do you understand the difference between putting an animal in a small enclosure where it’s miserable for years and taking it from the wild and killing it mercifully* … for food?”

        Yes, I do. I also know which I’d prefer if they were my only two options. I’d choose for an intelligent animal on the same basis.


        * Really? Mercifully?

        1. I have a reluctance to read Peter Singer (for example) on this issue; I don’t want to be convinced that I should give up eating what I like!

          all the more reason to read Singer.

          Don’t fear for the loss of your own belief systems. If they are weak, reading critiques of them is a good thing. If not, reading critiques at least will make you think.

          In the end, deciding to still eat meat is a personal choice, and nobody should criticize you for it because they decided differently.

              1. I didn’t say anything about being happy or not happy. I am only saying if you think it WRONG to eat meat for moral reasons (environmental, respect for life, etc), then why wouldn’t you say so. I am not saying that you need to berate the person, I am only saying for some people it is beyond being just a personal decision. Peace to you!

          1. In the end, deciding to still eat meat is a personal choice, and nobody should criticize you for it because they decided differently.

            Although I try to follow this dictum, I follow is exactly for the same reason I try not to debate religion with any deeply religious reason. This latter has to do with preserving my sanity by not indulging in an argument where rational arguments, to a first approximation, do not matter.

            1. Also, before anyone should insinuate that I am a hypocrite, I should hasten to mention that I do not eat meat (though I have, in the past), and that I try not to come in possession of leather articles (I don’t think I own any leather articles now, but I might be wrong). Also, I do realize that much of my agreement with ethical arguments against eating meat might have had to do with the cultural environment I was brought up in.

  4. My “ethical dilemma” about eating octopi comes from being a diver, and seeing them in their own home…they’re simply amazing creatures. I see a kind of intelligence in them that I just don’t get from cows. (Although goats come pretty close…and at my own wedding, as the groom, I was served the first taco from the barbacoa…the eyes!)

    I realize that as to the octopi I’m just anthropomorphizing the hell out of it…but I just don’t want to eat something that smart.

    And before you get all cranky about it, I have NO problem with others who do want to chow down on them.

    1. It’s been my experience that most divers share that sentiment, regardless of where in the world you are.

      and not all have no problems with others who end up deciding to eat them anyway.

      Oh, I could tell stories… even in the marine research centers I’ve spent time in.

      1. Octopuses are solitary animals, I don’t find them particularly interesting. Cuttlefish are way more interesting.

  5. Here’s where I come down: Farm animals such as pigs and cows are bred and raised for food, and therefore in my view it is ethical to eat them. Of course they should be raised in conditions that minimize their suffering but the animals, as individuals, were born only because they are useful to human beings.

    Wild animals were not bred for human consumption and human beings do not in most cases have a right to eat them. I don’t think the ethical case is very strong in the case of animals whose consciousness is questionable: crustaceans, bivalves, perhaps even most vertebrate fish. For other reasons, having to do with depletion of wild populations, I do not eat most wild-caught fish. But on ethical grounds I would not eat a wild mammal, or bird, or octopus.

    1. ” Farm animals such as pigs and cows are bred and raised for food, and therefore in my view it is ethical to eat them.”

      I am not sure this argument is as strong as you might think. Was it ethical to enslave children of slaves just because many of them were “bred and raised” for the purpose of being sold as slaves?

  6. Yum tum tum. Portugal best trip ever. The octopus in Tomar was the best ever.
    There is a famous little restaurant in Nazaré, crowded even on sunday nights, where the seafood brochette will be the best thing you can ever eat.

  7. A Greek restaurant that I like serves what seems to be a similarly prepared item on its starter menu. It is delicious. Although the high cholesterol of the cephalopods means that I have to restrict consumption, I also enjoy squid. A local restaurant with a menu that is sort of a hybrid between northern Italian and French, serves a squid salad that I enjoy immensely. I have also ordered squid from Thai menus, and one of my favorite Korean dishes, Hamul Dolsot Bibimbap, has squid, mussels, clams, rice, and veggies among its ingredients. Another Korean dish I occasionally like is Nakji Bokum, which is pieces of a small species of octopus swimming in gochu (red pepper) sauce. Very spicy.

  8. “Human beings are, a priori, in a different ethical category. If that’s an inconsistency, it’s one I am prepared to live with.”

    Many people are not “prepared” to believe a priori in that proposition: see for example this. Plus, there have been legal “bans” on specific kinds of meat for culturally derived “ethical” reasons in different parts of the world: examples that come to mind are dog meat in parts of the US, and beef in certain Indian states.

    I am just trying to point out that the ethical issues surrounding the eating of meat are not as clear cut as many would like to believe: and often one’s cultural upbringing, rather than any ethical or rational arguments have, more to do with an individual’s position on the matter.

  9. My beloved fellow atheists,
    our overpopulated species could (and perhaps will) eat each other species to extinction.
    But we had the reason, our religiously enforced overpopulation, here and on other atheist wesites again and again.

    But I cannot stop myself to add the female angle each time Peter Singer is being mentioned, just BECAUSE he mixes the concepts of “life/killing to eat” and the moral “Do not/as-little-as-possible make suffer”:

    Production of milk and dairy is much more “making suffer/torture” than any form of killing to get protein.
    I hope I do not need to explain why I feel that rape and being forced to have the rapist´s child are quite comparable and equally horrendous for a cow and for me?

    I do eat as much seafood (and fish, eggs, meat etc) as I can get, although I must admit Jerry´s first point: some cooks should not get anywhere near it, and he is right to mention those few who deserve the right to be called a cook!

  10. The car is an “Isetta” by BMW. My dad’s first car. It’s door swings open towards the front and the steering wheel swings to the side. One has to enter the car from the front, which is probably not good design by any current standards. Another bad design aspect is that the two hind wheels are much closer to each other than the front wheels, turning the car into a veritable pothole search engine. If you take the pothole between the front wheels, the hind wheels are nevertheless bound to hit it.

    1. I’ll leave it up but it’s deeply screwed up (I don’t know how it made it up here), but the individual is blacklisted until he/she shows some sense.

      1. When I saw your previous post with the picture of the Isetta car in it, I clicked on the comments thread (or so I thought) to see if anybody had answered your question about the type of car, but ended up in the wrong comments thread somehow. Sarching these comments with the help of the F3 function for the search term “Isetta” I got no hits and thought, therefore, that your question what type of car it is was still open.

        Hence there would have been some sense in it, if it had landed in the correct comment thread, though the question has long been answered by other commenters over there. Had I seen these answers, I wouldn’t even have seen cause to comment at all. But did not realise that I had stumbled into the comments thread of the wrong post. (And the examples of the design problems with the lack of reverse gear etc. have also been mentioned by the other commenters in the previous thread.)

        So, why don’t you just delete all of them? It’s just a case of stumbling into the wrong room.

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