The animal is curious, very flat, with white stripes across its body, the groundwork being dark brown. The head is brown, as well as the arms, but the inside of the latter is white, and is furnished with four rows of suckers. Its two tentacular arms are very long, expanded broadly at the tips, and are also furnished with suckers. The beak is hard and black, shaped like that of a parrot.
The common cuttle-fish, the Sèche, Seiche,or Casseron, of the French, is very generally eaten by our fishermen, and at Great Yarmouth they bring them in baskets to the houses for sale, recommending them as excellent and wholesome food. Cuttle-fish are often taken on the fishing lines, and will follow the bait to the surface, sucking it and holding fast by their long tentacles,* but we seldom find them alive on the shore, though their white bones are constantly picked up; and an immense number of these bones sometimes strew the beach from Beachy Head to Pevensey, while numbers float on the surface of the water. This was particularly the case there some years ago. It seemed as if there had been some epidemic amongst the cuttles which caused this great mortality, for certainly many basket-fuls of bones might easily have been collected. They are not without their use; and at Liverpool, cuttle-bones are sold to the druggists for making tooth-powder, as much as twelve hundredweight arriving at a time;* and Pliny says that the ashes of calcined shells of the Sepia were used for extracting pointed weapons which had pierced the flesh.†
* 'Sea Fish,' etc, by W. B. Lord.
In Germany it is called the Blaclefisch, or Tintenfisch, and in Spain Chocos, Relletias, Gastanuelas, and Slpia; and the Manx name for it is Eeast-yn-vraain-olley.
Cuttle-fishes are very common in the Mediterranean, and are highly prized by the Neapolitans. In Corfu both the Sepia and Octopus are considered excellent food, and are regarded as flesh.‡ The modern Greeks also make Sepiadœ, and especially the Octopodia, a principal article of food; they dry them in great quantities, and store them away for use to be boiled or fried. Mr. R. A. Arnold mentions having seen both kinds for sale in the markets at Athens, and he adds, that these nondescripts fulfil every condition of the Greek Lent, and are accordingly much eaten by pious women. While on board the steamer, on the way to Eubœa, it happened to be Good Friday, and Mr. Arnold inquired of the steward what could be had for breakfast, he replied in Greek, "Fasting food," and the first dish was composed of polypus, crawfish, and vegetables, mingled together and floating in oil. This was followed by a dish of fried Sepia.§ Several kinds of Cephalopoda are eaten abroad. The Octopus vulgaris is eaten when young and small at Nice, where it is much more plentiful in the market than at Genoa; and if it weighs less than a pound, and is still tender, it is much esteemed. Those who purchase it generally hammer it well with a stick before cooking it; and at Marseilles the fishermen beat them with, a reed, until it is broken, to make them tender. This is an ancient custom, for Aristophanes in his 'Dedalus' says, "It is what is called being beaten like a cuttlefish to make it tender".* It is also stated that the Greeks are careful to drag it for some time upon a stone, holding it by the opening in the body. The flesh is said to have a peculiar taste, consequently that of the cuttle-fish and calmar (loligo) is preferred. At Naples, shellfish merchants of Sta. Lucia sell them ready cooked.† At Venice, Octopi were sold ready boiled, and taken hot from the cauldron.‡ I have seen them in the market at Palma, Majorca, where they are called "Pop".
* Phipson's 'Utilization of Minute Life'.
† Pliny 'Nat. Hist.' vol. vi. bk. xxxii. c. 43.
‡ 'The Ionian Islands,' by Professor Ansted.
§ ' From the Levant, the Black Sea, and the Danube,' vol. i. p. 79.
These Octopods, called Octopodia by the modern Greeks, are regularly exposed for sale in the markets of Smyrna, as they are in the bazaars in India; and on the coast of the Red Sea the inhabitants fish up a great quantity of Poiilps, which they both eat and sell.§ The North American Indians are also partial to them.
Plato, the comic writer, says: -
" Good-sized polypus in season Should be boiled,- to roast them's treason, But if early, and not big,
Roast them; boil'd ain't worth a fig".
M. Verany gives the following description of it: - "The common Poülp (the Polpo of the Italians) is scattered throughout the Mediterranean, and is found on the coast of the Atlantic at the Canaries. According to facts collected by M. D'Orbigny, it has been found at Hayti, Cuba, Bahia, the Isle of France, the East Indies, and in the Red Sea. . . . This Cephalopod lives almost always amongst rocks, and generally hides itself in the holes and crevices, into which it penetrates with great ease, its body being very supple and elastic. It is in these recesses that he lies watching for the animals on which he lives; as soon as he perceives them, he cautiously leaves his den, darts like an arrow on his victim, which he wraps himself about, clasps in his serpent-like arms, and fixes, by means of his suckers. . . . Sometimes he places himself upon sandy ground at a short distance from the rocks, and is careful to construct a hiding-place. For this purpose he brings together, in the form of a circle, a quantity of pebbles, which he carries by fixing them on his arms by means of his suckers. Then, having formed a sort of crater, he ensconces himself in it, and there waits patiently for some fish or crab to pass, which he skilfully seizes". "The young Poülps in summer come to the pebbly shores, and they are sometimes met with in muddy places, from which they are taken by the trawl, together with numbers of Eledon (Ele-done cirrhosus). They are usually fished for with a line without a hook, instead of which is substituted a piece of dog-fish, a bit of cuttle-fish, a white fish, a bone, a piece of suet, or some attractive substance weighted with a small stone. . . . They are also caught with a small olive-branch, fixed at the end of a rod, fitted with a hook, which is drawn backwards and forwards before the openings of the holes and crevices of the rocks".
* Ozenne. † See Notes, ' Life in Normandy'.
‡ 'The World beyond the Esterelles,' by A. W. Buckland. § Ozenne.