El Mundo Today


Edible Animals III: Octopus Galician Style

(Betty Davis paint-over by Lamont Ludd)

Although there are no longer any Galicians left around its current crew, this virtual vessel was originally a Galician ship, probably still is --I like the idea of them ghosts still floating amidst order-craving chaos; and it is a definite fact that we can still smell the Druid's ashes remaining after she was gone with the recent bonfires lit in the name of John.
With the Druid gone, Wednesday decided to remove her old posts, together with Demian's, from our files. Whether she took them to her new boat or threw them into the sea, remains unknown. Either way we are helplessly saddened by her decision as the ship is now sailing too light. But we'll see what falls into our net.
As the only sailor left, a would-whip-himself captain, I've set course to the nearest port, in the Comoros. Having lost our compass, we had been sailing for the bay of Antongil, where we would stock up on lemurs and baobab wood. But then the Druid decided to unexpectedly commit herself to fire. In Spain, of all places. She always had a flair for the exotic. Using her meiga powers, she flew in essence over the Portuguese West Africa, the Nyasaland Protectorate, the Tanganyika Territory, the Belgian Congo, the French Equatorial Africa, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the Military Territory of the Niger, Algeria's Southern Territory, Morocco and the Riff, to end up in ashes and in Spain, having flown over the living and the dead. Whichever way one looks at it, it's far more economical/ecological than a Viking funeral. And one does not have to burn down the ship, just oneself.
The Druid herself had been the one who enrolled me in this freighter, having fished my soul in some Atlantic port, the name of which I do not seem to remember. Knowing me as she did, she previously intoxicated me with rum by forcing me to drink vast amounts of it. This never fails to recruit sailors and is exactly the same strategy I'm planning to use in order to man my ship on troubled seas.

Anyway, Octopuses
Or is it octopi? Not really, for although octopus may look like Latin (2nd declension), it is in fact Greek (3rd declension): κτώπους, plural κτώποδες (octopodes). Its Latin equivalent would be polypus, from Greek πολύπους, which means 'many feet' and gives pulpo in Spanish --in Galician too, although the artificial neologism polbo sounds farther from Spanish to celtomaniac ears and is therefore considered more fashionable nowadays. This is what happens when you let politicians mess with something as incomprehensible for them as language and linguistics; and they just got started: while octopuses may have a beak and three hearts, and be all brains, nationalists have innumerable beaks, being all heart and no brains whatsoever.
Octopuses are the only invertebrates seen to use tools, which supports the idea that (unlike nationalist politicians) they are intelligent. The fact that they try their best to avoid us would also support this notion. Being extremely elusive, like octopuses are, is a sure sign of intelligence, given the current state of affairs. Has anyone ever seen a politician get out of this predicament? If Burracalva was half as intelligent as the average octopus, by now he would have found a way out of the bloody mess he's so gratuitously gotten us all into, and I don't mean just the economy.
Furthermore, octopuses understand football, as Paul the octopus (das Krakenorakle) demonstrated last year by rightfully choosing Germany over Australia and Britain, and Spain over Germany and the Netherlands. This means that, also for prediction purposes, and not just for management, we'd be much better off with an octopus as president than we are now with this laceless shoemaker. Not surprisingly, there is a Facebook group that wants Paul the Octopus to rule their lives, and who is to say they would be doing worse than they are now under their present rulers.

Do Octopuses Believe in God?
The following (alleged) urban legend is widespread: at some aquarium (location varies depending on the different versions, but it’s usually an American or Australian city), rare tropical fish (sometimes other molluscs such as clams) keep disappearing and leaving no trace or remains behind them. Suspecting that some staff member is stealing the fish after hours the aquarium management set up a hidden camera to catch the thief in blazing offence. A few days later a midnight video footage exposes the culprit: opposite the missing-fish/clam saltwater tank was another saltwater tank, wherein lived an octopus who would have the nerve of waiting until it was late at night to crawl up the glass and out of its tank, to then proceed down across the room to the opposite fish tank. Once there he'd open the top, crawl in, catch a fish/clam, bring it back to its tank and eat it there in peace and quiet.
A good urban legend has to be generally believable while including an incredible or bizarre element (the hook) to increase its plausibility (truth, as we know, does not need to be believable). The fact that octopuses are escape artists is well documented (aquarium designers have a tough time designing for them), as well as the fact that they can travel fairly far out of water. We also know they have a good memory (again much better than that of the average politician), plus they are able to do things that many of us cannot do, like open containers to get at clams. And getting at the right clam, too. Paul the Octopus would be the best obvious example.
But for an octopus to go back to its own tank after having committed a felony? That would require more than memory. It would require planning, long-term thinking, as in, "Hold on now, I could continue eating out every night if I just went back to my cage undetected. Now where do they keep that mop?" It would require conscience. Otherwise, why would the octopus go back to its own tank instead of staying with the food source. What draws it back to its tank? Is it its sense of responsibility or (what amounts to the same) fear of God?
Since there's nothing I wouldn't do for my imaginary readers, I enquired into the matter. Nowadays no subject is trivial enough not to deserve its own forum; and what's worse, people actually make suggestions, which I read in an online debate among several aquarium keepers who were dealing with this very issue. In any case, the Galicians know better the only language them pulpos understand.

A Limit to Flexibility
My mate Aitor fished out an κτώπους once, on Motrico's pier. The clever cephalopod didn't bite the bait. It gave it a hug instead. It had been an unexpected catch, since we were aiming at seabass or maybe bream. In fact it was no catch at all, not on our part at least, for it was the octopus (which weighed around 700 g) who caught Aitor's arm and started crawling up it in a terrifying way. Those eyes of its! Aitor stabbed it between them with a small knife he had for his fishing line, but our neighbouring fisherman had the right idea: he used the cut to turn the poor thing inside out. Flexible or not, no octopus survives that.

Pulpo a galega
(For this cooking matter it is a good thing that there are no Galicians left, because we're going to get more than a bit blasphemous here in the recipe section. Forget them celtomaniac superstitions.) You don't necessarily have to boil the poor thing inside a copper cauldron, then take it out for some fresh air, change the water ritually or whatever them Galicians do before dipping it in and out of the boiling water, a given number of times, while they mutter a conxuro. Who's got a copper cauldron at home anyway, and doesn't use it as mere decoration (aside from me)? You don't really need to pound it heavily and repeatedly either, against the pier, before cooking it (so that it doesn't feel chewy and rubbery when you actually eat it). This is the 21st century. We live in a globalised world. To soften the octopus, you have alternatives. You may even try a Japanese way not without its fans, but this won't kill the anisakis, so personally I'd advise you to freeze it first. Unlike other fish, it won't lose its organolepsia in the process, it’ll just be tender.
Pre-heat an express pan with nothing at all in it. When it’s pretty hot, throw the de-frosted thing inside. Add no water (the octopus will release some of its own). Close the lid on and let it cook on a low fire for about 20 min. (We can feel the Druid's ashes catching fire again, since this is no way to treat an octopus, but we won't let this stop us.) Just shake the pan vigorously from time to time. Open after 20 minutes, and give it the usual scissor trimming, salt & paprika sprinkle and olive oil drizzle.

Edible Animals II
Edible Animals IV 


  1. OMG! Well done, Energu. Druid would be proud of you, if she was still alive. Ashes always smell of adventure, wind and a new course leading into newness, although I have to say I stopped reading after the second paragraph...Lazy me!

  2. Well, not really second paragraph, middle of second part: Octopuses

  3. Viva Galicia y Santiago!

  4. Ja ja, Muse, sé que has leído la receta ...aunque preferirías no haberlo hecho. ¡Ja jo ju!

  5. Ahora sí que la he leído, siempre sabes cómo hacerme entrar en la olla a pesar de mi laziness, jejeje. Si tratas así a un pulpiño, me alegro de que Druida no esté entre nosotros, ay, ¿dónde quedó la época de los conxuros? ¿Seguro que el pulpo sabe igual? Lo del congelador, pasa, pero la olla exprés, ¿no es un poco radical?

  6. This from a person who recommends sunflower oil to make a Spanish omelette.... El método de la olla (sin agua) conserva mejor los jugos primordiales y las propiedades organolépticas del polbo.