Roland Smoked Sliced Octopus

DiGregorio Market
5200 Daggett Avenue

Jan 10, 2007 at 4:00 am
Pity the octopus, a creature thrown into the wild without parents or backbone, not even a shell to keep it safe. So sorry is this beast's lot that when a male octopus mates, he invariably loses one of his eight arms. Having been employed, penis-like, to place his sperm inside his octopussy partner, the appendage detaches from his body. But it gets worse: Once he has fulfilled his biological function, the male promptly dies. Talk about about a soft off....

The ladies don't have it much better. After laying hundreds of thousands of eggs, the female octopus neither eats nor ventures from her nest. Instead, she spends her days guarding her eggs. But for all her prenatal doting, Mama leaves the larval pups to fend for themselves once they hatch. You see, she's weak. She hasn't eaten since she laid her litter, and like Papa before her, it's her time to go.

With no parents to protect them, the offspring spend their early days floating aimlessly amid the sea's plankton, at risk of becoming some whale's breakfast. Orphaned and alone, they must rely on luck and their wits — which octopuses appear to have in spades. Many scientists believe that the octopus possesses both short- and long-term memory, making it hands-down the smartest of the invertebrates. Sure, that bar's set pretty low, but octopuses have even been known to escape their aquariums and go rooting about the laboratory in search of food. They've been reported to board fishing boats, and there's even a video floating around the Internet that shows an octopus killing a shark.

The octopus' smarts have won the species a certain level of respect in the scientific community. For instance, under Britain's 1986 Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, the octopus is granted honorary vertebrate status, which regulates the types of experiments researchers may conduct on the creatures.

Still, an octopus' life remains nasty, brutish and short. Given the long odds, it's got to be the lucky ones who eventually find their way into a can of Roland Smoked Sliced Octopus.

Rose-colored, sliced beyond anatomical recognition and buried in a puddle of salty cottonseed oil, these cephalopods have dense, pliant flesh that would be easily outmatched by a teething infant's unexercised jaw and a pleasant smoky flavor that nonetheless neuters them of their native taste. In fact, in a blind taste test they're dead ringers for their low-functioning cousin, the smoked mussel.

Which raises the question: If the octopus tastes just like a lowly mussel, shouldn't we let the poor creature scratch out its existence in the deep and sate ourselves with bivalves?

A life without octopus — lightly breaded and fried, marinated in lime and barbecued, or stewed with tomatoes, onions and olives — would be an impoverished one indeed. I'm not giving it up anytime soon (and I don't suggest you do, either). But a can of Roland Smoked Sliced Octopus is a redundant dish if ever there was one. You get the same bang for the gustatory buck from a can of smoked mussels — and without the pang bred of the knowledge that you're eating an animal that — at best — might have sex once in its brief life, can memorize its way through a maze and might, just might, recall its own mother's death.

Clearly, these creatures have suffered enough.