This story is said to be translated from a small ill-printed pamphlet sold by the priests of the temple, all the decorations of which, even to the bronze lantern in the middle of the court-yard, are in the form of a cuttle-fish, the sacred emblem of the place.†
Both the Chinese and the Japanese make use of Octopus sinensis (d'Orbigny) as food when young, and season it with vinegar and ginger, and also of a species of Loligo. The Chinese have a special boat for the Cuttle-fish fishery, which is carried on both by day and night; and if by night a fire is lighted on deck, that the glare may attract the fish to the surface. The season for cuttle-fish extends from the second to the eighth Chinese month (March to September), and the haul is most abundant in the fifth, sixth, and seventh months (June, July, and August). They are taken with nets, and also with hooks. ... It is only in rainy weather that Cuttle-fish are brought at once to the market and sold fresh. In fine seasons they are dried in the sun on the rocky islands, and then disposed of. . . . To dry Cuttle-fish they must be cut open and eviscerated, and finally exposed on a bamboo mat in the sun. When quite dry they are packed in wooden tubs and flattened by the aid of human feet.*
* 'Fudô,' literally 'the motionless;' Buddha, in the state called Nirvana.
† 'Tales of Old Japan,' by A. B. Mitford, vol i. p. 40.
The flesh of the Loligo, or Squid, was highly esteemed by the ancients, and Ephippus recommends the eating of Squids and Cuttle-fish together.
"And many polypi, with wondrous curls".
And Sotades, the comic poet, introduces a cook, speaking as follows: -
"To these I added cuttlefish and squills;
A fine dish is the squill when carefully cooked,
But the rich cuttlefish is eaten plain;
(Though I did stuff them all with a rich forced-meat
Of almost every kind of herb and flower).
Bk. vii. c. 41, Athen., Deipnosophists.
They are still exposed for sale in the bazaars and markets in India.
With us the Squid, or Squill, as it is sometimes called at Weymouth, is only used as bait. It is good for catching conger-eels and whiting-pout, also for cod-fishing; but it is also a great enemy to the fisherman; and on the French coast they say that the Calmar, as they call it, often tears the fish from their hooks during the night when they are fishing with lines. The inhabitants of the Basque provinces esteem Gal-mars highly as food, and call them Chipirones, and at Bayonne they are also known by the same name, as well as by that of Cornet or Comiche. The Spanish names for Loligo vulgares are Maganos, Gibiones, Lura, Calamars, Rintillas, and Calamarons; and in Italy it is known by several names also, amongst them, Cala-maro, Calamajo, Totano; and Pocuranac at Fiume.*
* China,'Imperial Maritime Customs'.
M. Cantraine says that the young only of Loligo sagittata are esteemed as food, and are called Calama-retti; but that Loligo subulata is the species most sought after, its flesh being very delicate. Both these are Mediterranean species.†
Both in China and Japan, Squids are regularly collected for food, and Mr. Arthur Adams gives, in the 'Zoologist,' p. 7518, an interesting account of the Squid-fishery off Nisi-Bama, in the Oki Islands. On nearing the anchorage, on the 19th November, 1859, they were struck by the number of lights on the water, moving in all directions, and on inquiry they found that they were from fishing-boats on the look out for Ika-surame, or Squids. The lights were produced by kindling "birch-bark in small kinds of gratings, with long wooden handles, machines known among seafaring men by the name of devils. The flame of the fires is very clear and vivid; and the devils, being held over the sides of the boats, attract the Squids". They were a species of Ommastrephes, usually called by the fishermen the Flying-squids, or Sea-arrows, as they swim very rapidly over the surface of the water, in immense shoals. They were taken by "jigging". The "jig" is of iron, and consists of a long shank, surmounted by a circlet of small recurved hooks. These cuttles are favourite articles of food, both with Japanese and Chinese, and are carefully dried for the market, and sold in great quantities. Near Hakodadi there is, we are told by Mr. Adams, a small fishing village exclusively devoted to the catching and curing of the Squid; and many hundreds of thousands may be seen daily drying in the open air, all nicely cleaned; each kept flat by means of little bamboo stretchers, and suspended in regular rows on lines, which are raised on poles about six feet from the ground. The open spaces, and all the houses in the village, are filled with these squid-laden lines. Squids everywhere form a novel kind of screen.
* 'The Fisheries of the Adriatic,' by Faber.
† 'Malacologie Mediterranéene et Littorale,' par F. Cantraine.
Pliny speaks of the Springing loligo, and Trebius Niger remarks that whenever it is seen darting above the surface of the water, it portends a change; and also that they sometimes dart above the surface in such vast numbers, as to sink the ships upon which they fall.*
Another of the Teuthidœ, which is rare on our coast, but is common in the Mediterranean, Sepiola Rondeletii, is eaten at Nice, and is called Supieta, or Sepiata, and is said to be a very delicate morsel. The Italians call it Calamaretto, Zottolina, Sepolina, and Seppietta; and quantities are consumed at Genoa and Leghorn, and it is also used as food in Sicily and Sardinia.
Aristotle speaks of the Teuthis, which he says is a kind of Cuttle-fish, but different from the Sepia, and has ink of a pale colour. Alexis talks of cooking them thus: -
* Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.' vol. vi. bk. xxxii. c. 6.
"I took the teuthides, cut off their fins, Adding a little fat, I then did sprinkle Some thin shred herbs o'er all, for seasoning".
Bk. vii. c. 130, Athen., Deipnosophists.
And Antiphanes, in his Female Fisher,' says (referring to the ink): -
"Give me some cuttle-fish first. O Hercules, They've dirtied every place with ink; here, take them, And wash them clean".
According to Pliny, Anaxilaus states that the ink of the Sepia is possessed of such, remarkable potency that if it is put into a lamp, the light will become entirely changed, and all present will look as black as Ethiopians.*
The ink of the Cuttle, or Sepia, is dried, and imported from China to Liverpool, where it arrives either in cakes, or is there made into cakes called Sepia, which is used in painting. Dr. Lankester, in his little work on 'Animal Products,' says that the Cuttle-fish is very abundant in the Mediterranean, and that the ink-bag is carefully extracted, the liquid being poured out to allow of its drying as quickly as possible. It is then triturated with a little caustic soda, or potash, and afterwards boiled with caustic lye for half an hour, when it is filtered, and the caustic liquid is then treated with an acid till it is neutralized. After standing, a precipitate falls, which is collected, washed with water, and finally dried by a gentle heat. This substance is the dark pigment used by artists under the name of Sepia.
* Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.' vol. vi. bk. xxxii. c. 52.
The polypus is the symbol of Messina, and, according to Montfaucon, is figured on a medal of that city, with a man's head on the reversed side.
Pliny recommends the polypus for arresting haemorrhage, it is bruised and then applied; and he further adds, conceruing it, that of itself it emits a sort of brine, and therefore needs none to be used when it is cooked; that it should be sliced with a reed, as it is spoilt if an iron knife is used, "becoming tainted thereby, owing to the antipathy which naturally exists between it and iron," and Dalechamps suggests that this means, "it being the nature of flesh to cling to the knife".*
In France, Octopus vulgaris is highly prized for bait, and is also considered very good as food, and in ' Life in Normandy' is the following recipe for cooking it: - "A dish of cuttle-fish is divided in the centre by a slice of toast; on one side of the toast is a mass of cuttle-fish stewed with a white sauce, and on the other, a pile of them beautifully fried, of a clear even colour, without the slightest appearance of grease. The flour of haricot-bean, very finely ground, and which is as good as bread-crumbs, is added".