Humans everywhere have always been fascinated by octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, known biologically as cephalopods. They evolved hundreds of millions of years ago and are related to molluscs such as mussels and snails. They can grow to an enormous size with eyes as big as footballs, but they still live for only a couple of years. They mate once in their lifetime and die shortly after. They have blue blood and three hearts and they can shoot out jet-black ink. They have a brain and have behaviours that could be interpreted as signs of intelligence, even though more than half of their brain is distributed in their arms. They are colour blind, but they can change the colour of their skin in a flash. They are masters of disguise and are able to alter the texture of their skin and the patterns displayed on it at lighting speed. They can also 'taste' using the suckers on their arms. They can move extremely fast thanks to a jet-propulsion system built into their body cavity.
Although they are soft-bodied and look vulnerable, cephalopods are formidable predators. Octopuses have arms that are so strong that they can exert a force equal to hundreds of times their own body weight. Squid and cuttlefish can shoot out a tentacle to capture prey at the speed of a javelin thrown by an expert athlete.
Cephalopods are, however, so much more than just fascinating creatures with strange physical characteristics. They are a nutritious, delicious protein source that has found a place for thousands of years in many food cultures around the world. As squid, cuttlefish, and octopuses are native to virtually all parts of the ocean, they are an excellent and available alternative to meat from terrestrial animals.
This book is written to promote the overall place of cephalopods in home kitchens and to inspire the uninitiated to add them to their diet. It describes the many facets of their anatomy that play a central role in their potential use as healthy, diverse, and interesting food sources, with a particular emphasis on their taste and texture. By way of an assortment of recipes, the authors hope to dispel the myth that it is difficult to prepare delicious dishes using squid, cuttlefish, and octopuses. In addition, there are contributions to the on-going discussions about how marine resources can be exploited more responsibly in a sustainable manner.
Ole G. Mouritsen is a professor of gastrophysics and culinary food innovation at the University of Copenhagen, president of the Danish Gastronomical Academy, and director of the Danish national research and communication centre Taste for Life.
Klavs Styrbæk is a chef and leader of the gastronomic enterprise STYRBÆKS, which includes a gourmet restaurant, a cooking school, a catering service, and a product development branch.