...They will always be hanged in my memory, because this was the first image that I captured on them. Or maybe this was not the first image; but, since I always enjoy tragedy, I prefer to imagine them as they are hanged. In the antique port of my village and under the summer sun, their long legs were swinging melancholically on a rope that was not silky at all. The truth is; the image of the octopuses is a little abnormal, different, dramatic and noble, but also a little unearthly. If they were human, they would, no doubt, be the emperors of a huge and mighty kingdom; anyhow, they must already own the crowns of the deep seas. Whatsoever, it is sometimes better not to know.
The presence of octopuses had always been overwhelming for me during the summer holidays of my childhood. Whenever something touched the toes of my feet while I was swimming, I always thought that a giant octopus was trying to grab me, take me to its dark kingdom, and serve me as the main dish for the royal family. This was the moment when the cells on my back were turned into little volcanic craters and I began to swim desperately shoreward. As soon as I reached the coast, I used to sit on the sand and while the beats of my heart were turning back to normal, I was thinking “Oh dear, that was close!” Of course, nobody was aware of what I had been through!
We used to go to the antique port with friends before the sunset. Our only purpose was to fool around and act naughty. The only true smell of the port was the grilled octopuses, shrimps, and lobsters. In fact, the smell was so dazzling that the people eating in the taverns were getting high; otherwise why they would come EVERYDAY, man? Our evening adventures with my “notorious” friends used to begin with a short visit to the hangouts of the fishermen and go on with their strange sea stories. I always noticed big buckets next to them filled with different sea creatures that were negotiating with their hunters for their freedom: fish, scared to death lobsters, lazy crawfish, esteemed and pride octopuses. How calmly were they swimming without despair and cry? They were as if telling “We are going to deal with this through dialogue.” I was almost sure that at the end they would convince the fishermen to set them free in exchange of legendary treasures of a pirate ship, although the octopuses were the first to be executed. They were hanged from an ordinary rope where everybody could see.
Once, I remember, my middle brother came out of the sea with a baby octopus in his hands. Whoa, how I envied him! And why didn’t he mention about this crazy operation, jerk? I got angry with him; but at the same time, I was dying to feel this little prince in my own hands. God, what a feeling! The baby octopus, slipping through my fingers and giving thousands of kisses on my palms with its buttoned legs, begged to turn back to the sea and cried, “My father will die of agony!” It was me who would decide about its fortune, but I was too intoxicated by its beauty to let it free… After a while, the baby octopus was beaten on the sharp rocks, spitted out foams of anger, and finally found its place on the rope of our garden. I, the traitor, as if I hadn’t witnessed this incident, got into a deep relation with the octopus by garnishing it with olive oil, vinegar, and oregano as soon as it was taken from the grill. I would keep this secret in my stomach, forever.
The octopus holds a special place in Greek cuisine. Without drying it on the rope, it won’t actually work out; still you can enjoy it by cooking it in a pot, as it is one of the most favorite dishes of the Easter fast. Let’s sauté onions with olive oil, then add the octopus, boiled and cut, throw two bay leaves, and finish with red wine or vinegar. Adding fresh tomato concasse, finally, completes this glorious combination. (Crushed tomatoes are rather sad in the winter, but I couldn’t help it.) Now, put a little water in the pot and remove it from the fire before the octopus gets too soft. In order to strengthen the red color, it is possible to add a tablespoon of tomato paste; but I didn’t, as I was too afraid of losing the elegant taste of the sea. Meanwhile, salt and pepper are dying to jump into the pot, please don’t ignore them.
The traditional spaghetti with octopus is made with coquillettes, but I preferred to go with spaghetti, my favorite. Watch out, here, I have a tip for you: do not throw away the water in which the octopus is boiled, but use it to cook the spaghetti for eight minutes(unless they are fresh). Once the pasta is ready, mix it with the octopus and cook for two more minutes. Oh, when you serve, spread on your dishes small pieces of feta cheese and big shredded parsley and enjoy with someone you really fancy! Escort with dry white wine, it flirts with the buttoned king in a brilliant way.
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