The annual New York Times Magazine issue devoted to food and drink came out yesterday. This year’s edition focuses on restaurants — a profile of a famous Birmingham restaurant, for example — but two stories diverge slightly: a witty interview with the influential wine importer Kermit Lynch, and a report by Marnie Hanel on the Great Octopus Drama of Seattle.
See, it’s legal to hunt for giant Pacific octopus in Washington state, so long as you basically wrestle the enormous thing to death with your bare hands. (As you might imagine, this cuts down significantly on the octopus death rate.) But when a scuba-diving teenager did just that a year ago in Elliott Bay, right across the bay from downtown Seattle, casual beachgoers were appalled.
The species, it turns out, is thriving in the region. But many people don’t like the idea of killing a large, intelligent, unusual wild creature just to eat it.
Meanwhile, locavore diners have been happily enjoying the exact same species prepared in Seattle restaurants, notably by the chef Matthew Dillon; the giant Pacific octopus is also legal when accidentally caught as bycatch by commercial fishermen. As the Times noted:
Dillon suspects the uproar surrounding Mayer’s catch wasn’t really about sustainability; it was about the social context. “We don’t live in a culture where people go out and get octopus and then bring it in and eat it. This isn’t Marseille.” His issue with it, however, was simply that Mayer found this particular octopus in Elliott Bay, where the Duwamish River Superfund site drains.
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