Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Squid

Fried Calamari and Potato Salad

[If you're here for the poem, don't miss my follow-up post: "What I've done to Stevens!" to get a sense of its critical reception]

With true literary geekiness, I've penned a poem. It's an imitation devoted to squid.

And with even greater literary geekiness, I've included footnotes.

Recipes to follow.

Thirteen ways of looking at a squid
(with sincere apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Among snowy cephalopods
The only moving thing
Was the blade of my cleaver. (1)

I was of eight minds,
Like a squid
On which there are eight squid arms. (2)

The squid once whirled in the aqua sea.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Eat food.
Man and woman and hot calamari
To eat.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of crispy rings
Or the beauty of tentacles,
The kraken sizzling
Or just after. (3)

Tentacles filled the long platter
Of Venetian glass.
The shadow of the black ink
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the butter
An indescribable taste. (4)

O men of Italy,
How did you imagine golden squid?
See the
frito misto di mare
Swim around the oil
Of the olives about you? (5)

I know calamari
And crunchy, indescribable squid rings;
But I know, too,
That tentacles are involved
In what I know.

When the black ink flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

On sight of calamari
Swimming in the green oil,
Even the cooks of linguine
Would cry out sharply.

We rode over from the Lido
In a fast boat. (6)
Once, hunger pierced us,
In that we mistook
The shadow of the vaporetto
For sea squids.

The water is moving.
The kraken must be swimming.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was dinner
And we were going to dine.
The fried squid sat
On our dinner plates.

(1) I actually use a knife to slice the squid into rings, but I liked the euphony of “cleaver.”
I thought the arms were tentacles, but squid, in fact, have only two tentacles and eight arms.
The Kraken is a mythical creature often compared to a giant squid.
Here the poem shifts to a memory of our trip to Venice, where we ate at a beautiful restaurant, Corte Sconta, known for its seafood. One dish was made with black squid ink pasta.
We also had their special, frito misto di mare, mixed fried seafood, which included calamari.
We stayed on the Lido to save money, so we took the water buses to Venice. We needed the extra money to pay for our meal at Corte Sconta.

Fried Calamari

2 cups of Flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

2 pounds of cleaned squid

Olive oil or Canola oil


Slice the bodies of the squid into half-inch rings, leaving the tentacles whole.

Mix the flour in a shallow bowl with salt, pepper and paprika.

Fill frying pan with about three inches of oil. Heat to 350 degrees.

Working in small batches, dredge the squid in the flour, shake off excess flour, and fry in the oil.

Each batch will take 2-3 minutes. Fry until golden and crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Serve with lots of lemons.


Potato Salad with a Zing

(adapted from Julia Child’s French Potato Salad in The Way to Cook)

1 ½ pounds of boiling potatoes

1 red chili pepper minced

2 scallions chopped

Salt and pepper

¼ cup of potato cooking water

1 ½ Tablespoons wine vinegar

2-3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

2-3 Tablespoons of light olive oil

Peel potatoes and slice into ¼ inch thick pieces; keep in cold water until ready to cook. Place potatoes in a pot with clean cold water to cover. Add a couple teaspoons of salt. Bring to simmer, and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the potatoes are just tender. Drain but save ¼ cup of potato cooking water. Turn the warm potatoes in a bowl with scallions, salt and pepper, chili pepper, cooking water, vinegar, and cilantro. Let steep for 10 minutes, tossing gently several times. Correct seasoning, and then add some oil before serving.


Cajun Chef Ryan said...

I posted a comment on Foodbuzz too!

You must be a Language Prof at UNC right! Just a wild guess, but maybe Duke too! LOL

Anywho, I love Fried Calamari and I look foward to more food poems too!

Cajun Chef Ryan

Pam said...

The fried calamari looks delicious. I order it in restaurants all the time but have never made it myself.

ellen said...

Carolina girl here to..........I love to eat and travel.......some have said I wish I could enjoy my food like you??? I just love to eat ....we grew up with so many different things to eat ....that some will never experience......thanks mom & dad for the adventure...I will follow you...see what you up to...