A little moment of beauty

My wife, who adores arroz de polvo (rice with octopus) and just about any other octopus dish, frequently laughs at my refusals to eat this succulent regional delicacy. When I tell her that I worked with octopuses in a past job, and that they’re outrageously intelligent and it’s a bit like eating a cat, she asks me when I last refused to eat meat from lambs or pigs. This is a good argument for which I never have a decent answer other than the lame, “Yeah, well, that’s different.”

Perhaps the argument I ought to be using is, “I can’t bring myself to eat anything that beautiful.” And if you don’t think soft, squishy undersea creatures with eight arms and suction cups can be beautiful, then you haven’t seen this video. Taken off the coast of Oregon, among the hydrothermal vent fields at the Juan de Fuca Ridge, it shows a rarely-seen white octopus (Grimpoteuthis bathynectes) swimming gracefully through its native habitat. Members of the Grimpoteuthis genus are nicknamed “Dumbo” octopuses due to a pair of thick, strong fins on their mantle, which they use for propulsion and which make them look like a certain Disneyfied flying elephant. But Dumbo could never withstand the environment these creatures thrive in. As a Scientific American article notes, they are “marvels of evolutionary engineering. Living mostly some 3,000 to 4,500 meters (9,800 to 14,800 feet) down, they can stand pressures of more than 5,000 pounds per square inch.”

Check out that linked article for more interesting information on these unusual creatures…or just sit back and be mesmerized by this video, produced by a deep sea research team from the University of Washington.

(And it’s in HD, too! Full screen if you can.)

UPDATE: Upon reading this post, my wife insists that I correct two things. 1) Her favorite octopus dish is actually salada de polvo, and 2) she “would never eat anything that beautiful.” So now I just need to find some gorgeous HD footage of our local Atlantic octopuses swimming…

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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14 Responses to A little moment of beauty

  1. Scout says:

    Lambs aren’t especially intelligent, though they are ridiculously adorable. But I don’t think that going to stop me eating them. Actually, after a recent trip to the UK I reconsidered my approach to eating meat.

    I’d been hiking in the Peak District and enjoying all the adorable lambs frolicking about, too young to be afraid us (I love lambing season). Lambs (and sheep, post shearing) look nice, they’re pretty docile and sometimes friendly. They keep the grass nicely trimmed and their poop is basically just dirt with a bit of undigested grass. They also help keep dogs employed and fit, what with all the running in circles and zig-zags while herding. Really, I just feel like sheep enhance the landscape.

    My conclusion, sheep farming is an economy I definitely want to support, so I must eat more lamb not less. That’s a pretty good reason to not turn down lamb, right…?

    I can’t help you out with the pork argument. Pig farms a just disgusting and their poop smells vile.

    • oregon expat says:

      Really, I just feel like sheep enhance the landscape.

      I’m with you on that one! Goats, too. And they are certainly far, far easier on the environment than colossally heavy cows. (I still haven’t gotten over my horror at seeing the total destruction of alpine meadows and streams in the Picos de Europa –a national park! — due to cattle grazing.)

      As for the pigs, I’m now a huge fan of porco preto, or black pork. This refers to a pig that is normally turned out into fields, where it roams around grazing on acorns and whatnot, living a stink-free life that produces delicious meat. I am happy to support this economy, too.

  2. Paulo says:

    As someone who “loves” octopus and who is fascinated by those amazing creatures, I must say I fully understand your point of view and that I fully understand your wife’s.

    I am almost proud to say that ever since I started knowing more and more about them, I have, for the most part…, abstained from – let’s say – enjoying them. I like to think that the main reason for that is not only that Oregon is far from being the place where the most… delightful ones can be found, especially if comparing it with the oh so excellent and so … I’m going to say it… “roastable” specimens from those wonderful Atlantic shores.
    . . .
    What do you want? I’m so conflicted! “Thanks” for bringing this up now.

    We can have a “leitão” and “cabrito” discussion as well. Hopefully over a table where the subject matter is present.

    • oregon expat says:

      We can have a “leitão” and “cabrito” discussion as well. Hopefully over a table where the subject matter is present.

      Add in a bottle of your favorite port and you’ve got a deal!

      • Paulo says:

        Sounds like a plan and I will bring it along with me because, oh scandal, it’s cheaper to buy my beloved Taylor’s Tawny 20 in the US than in Portugal.

  3. Paulo says:

    OK, now I saw the video and I feel like a troglodyte.

  4. Ana_ñ says:

    Truly beautiful, indeed!

    As for eating octopus, I love them and intend to keep doing it, provided that we can maintain a sustainable fishery. I understand what Scout says about that kind of farming y I totally agree with the ecosystem behind the black Iberian pigs. You posted not long ago about cork oaks and the need to support these economies.

  5. Jorge says:

    Ah, but if you are what you eat, to eat beauty is to become beauty. 😉

    And, besides, underwater there’s no Chopin. :p

  6. Inge says:

    Welll… i can’t help but LOL at your update. I can almost imagine a heavy threat actually being executed if you wouldn’t have posted those lines.. *grin*

  7. IsabelPS says:

    I had the same problem with my Californian husband. Not only octopuses are very intelligent but they are also very sensitive creatures. Unfortunately, very delicious, too…

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