'In Tandem' is the brain child of Jinksy. This week she has offered two illustrations for inspiration. I have chosen the second for my flight of fancy.
Sylvie wanted to impress her Italian boyfriend so when he said that he loved Polpi in Umido she scurried out to the local market to buy an octopus. She had never eaten octopus but Pietro said it was delectable. She selected one, shuddering slightly at the sight of the suckers on the tentacles, remembering that it was considered an intelligent invertebrate and hoping that it was, indeed, truly defunct, dead, passed over, gone beyond.
Back home Sylvie set about preparing the food. She checked the ingredients; white wine – yes, better sample that – she poured herself a generous glass, sipped, approved, glugged, refilled. Garlic, tomatoes, honey – all there. What was this - fresh dill and parsley? No, she didn’t have any of those. Dried mixed herbs would suffice. She was nervous about cooking for Pietro – she really liked him. She didn’t like spicy food so decided to leave out the chillies. She didn’t like anchovies, either – far too salty - so never had any in her stock cupboard. She didn’t think it would make a huge difference to the finished dish.
Sylvie consulted the recipe. The first thing she had to do was clean the octopus. Gingerly she removed it from its wrapping and cut off the head. She couldn’t find the beak so thought the creature must have lost it. She rinsed the body in several changes of water and looked at the next step. She didn’t relish cutting it up so resolved to cook it whole. With everything in the pan and safely out of sight she poured two glasses of wine just in time to open the door to Pietro.
He was appreciative of her efforts to cook one of his favourite dishes and smiled at her as he chewed and chewed. He was a little surprised to discover the beak still in place between the tentacles and laughed, not unkindly, when Sylvie explained why she had not found it. She ate very little – the suckers were quite repellent and she didn’t like the rubbery texture.
Looking back to that day Sylvie smiled. Her husband had waited for several months after they married before confessing that the octopus had been almost raw. ‘It’s all right,’ he assured her, ‘It’s a delicacy in some countries. Some Koreans even eat it alive. It’s just that I prefer it cooked.’
They agreed then that henceforth they would share the cooking. Sylvie specialised in traditional English fare and Pietro was in charge of the Italian dishes. Eventually they opened a small restaurant, but octopus was never on the menu.