Hunt for “Inkpot”

Marine gifts of the Mediterranean coast of Israel include not only a lot of fish, but also representatives of the invertebrates family – squids and octopuses. We are going to discuss ‘eight-legged’ octopus, ‘octopus vulgaris’ or an ‘inkpot’.

Octopuses can reach 3 meters in length and 25 kg of body weight. 15-kilo octopuses are quite rare, but 10-kilo ones are common. On each of the 8-10 tentacles an octopus has up to 100 or more suckers, depending on the age of the animal. One sucker can pull a hundred grams of weight, which means that, theoretically, the animal is able to hold one hundred kilos. (The clever Japanese make use of this ability of an octopus: it is known that at the shores of the Country of the rising sun valuable porcelain was taken out from a sunken ship with the help of octopuses.)

Octopus’ eyesight exceeds even that of an eagle – it is not only keen, but also infrared, which makes it possible for the octopus to see in complete darkness. The famous naturalist Gerald Darrell was amazed by ‘huge, meaningful eyes of a clam with human expression’.

They move very fast, with the help of a special part of the body – a kind of a ‘jet engine’ by firing water at a speed of 50-70 km per hour. But octopuses are able to rest, too: they can spend hours lying on the surface … and even ‘walk’ on the shore – they have a special body cavity with a supply of water for this purpose.

Special features of some parts of the skin of an octopus can serve as a kind of ‘spotlights’ that shine, making the way at night or at depth easier for the animal. In addition, the octopus, like a chameleon, is able to change color – for the purpose of mimicry or depending on ‘the mood’.

And why, in fact, is it called an ‘inkpot’? The fact that the body of an octopus has a special ‘defensive’ organ – a pear-shaped excrescence of the rectum, called the ink bag. It is divided into two parts, one of which is ‘operational’ and the second one is a ‘warehouse’, that stores ink ‘ammunition’, which contains substances similar to narcotic; they cause brain freeze of a chaser, so that it drops the intention to attack. At the moment of danger, the octopus shoots out the liquid at the enemy, the ink is spread out into the water as a smokescreen, and this helps the octopus to escape from the aggressor safely under its guise.

The habitat of the octopus are rocky coasts, caves and crevices in the rocks. Its place of ‘residence’ is at the bottom, among rocks and seaweed. The clam is the most active at night.

Although the octopus is a predator, which means it eats everything that moves, it is still not dangerous for a human. But for the ‘king of nature’ octopus is an important target species: nothing will prevent a human from eating something delicious. And not only delicious: the meat of an octopus contains a loading dose of iodine, vitamins B1 and B2, vital amino acids, protein and phosphorus, besides, its meat is low in calories, which makes it an essential component of dietary dishes.

Ways of catching the octopus are few. Thus, the Japanese are constantly surprising the world with their know-hows by acting in a simple, but clever way: they throw a narrow-necked jar with a string into the sea and … wait. The next day, the vessel with a trusting eight-legged ‘guest’ is just pulled to the surface.

A less humane way – is catching octopus with the help of thin ropes (or a strong fishing line), with iron hooks at the end, where a bait – anything white or bright – is tied to (in Israel fishermen use an olive branch as a bait, because its silvery leaves look like small fishes); and sometimes rotten fish or meat serves as a bait. With the help of a spool this device is descended deep to the bottom. After the octopus swallows the bait and gets caught in the hooks, fishing line is carefully pulled up, and a lift net is placed under the octopus.

Fans of spearfishing use an iron hook, or a gaff. Having found a refuge of an octopus at the bottom, they push there an arm with a hook, pull it abruptly towards themselves – and the prey is in hand.

Have you ever tried eating automobile tires? .. A person experiences such kind of gustatory sensations when eating a boiled octopus. To bring it to an edible state, you need to work hard – soak, pickle, beat it against a stone, and even … whirl in a washing machine (there is such a technique, too); all of these preparatory stages take at least a day and night. The simplest way is to clean it, wash and put in a freezer.

How to cook an octopus dish? It depends on culinary traditions of the chef. The Koreans eat an octopus alive, the Japanese use it for sushi, or cook in a brine. The Greeks love octopus meat dried or fried in a grill, and then add it into a salad with garlic and olive oil. The Spanish stew it in red wine, or serve it boiled with red pepper and potatoes.

Octopus can meet not only gastronomic needs of a human, but his thirst for excitement and winning the fight as well. Practical Americans as usual, have done business making use of this age-old passion. In the late 40s of the last century there appeared a new kind of wrestling – a man versus an octopus: a diver got to grips with the clam in shallow water, and had to take it out of the water. The peak of the popularity of this kind of wrestling came to the 60s: then in the coastal areas of the U.S. they even held annual championships, which were broadcast on television.

Finally, remembering Ostap Bender’s precept – a compulsory legend. In ancient Greece, in Syracuse there lived a gourmet Philoxenus. Once he ate up a whole octopus, leaving only its head, after which he got sick from overeating. When the doctor, who came, announced that he had to live only a few hours, Philoxenus ordered to bring the remaining head of the octopus and after he ate it up with appetite, said he was not leaving behind anything on the earth, worth feeling sorry for any more… And died.

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