Posted by: Sally Ingraham | November 29, 2007

Calamari Strikes Again

I have been visiting my parent’s home in Kennebunk, ME, for going on a week and a half now. Thanksgiving and it’s promise of a feast drew me down from my island, and my bed on the floor in the apartment where I am still only half moved in.

Fittingly perhaps, in many ways this visit has revolved around food. There are few things that I am more thankful for than good food.

Prepared by grandparents and aunts and uncles, the meal I enjoyed on Thanksgiving was filled with old favorites as well as new surprises. The green bean casserole that I prepared under my mother’s direction, was comfortingly slimy and scattered profusely with soggy onion rings. The stuffed portabella mushrooms crafted by my uncle, would not have been complete without their brilliant orange and garlic infused companion dressing. The homemade cranberry sauce that barely made it to the table, had a laid back sweetness that was quickly dispelled by the crunch of whole cranberries. I could write poetry about the mini cheesecakes, or my grandmother’s apple pie, but I will spare you.

Instead I will move on to the pumpkin whoopie pies that I made with my little sister a few days after the Thanksgiving haze had moved onto the horizon. We cooked the little cakes until they were ‘firm but springy’, and then waited impatiently to slather a mixture of cream cheese and confectionary sugar between their plump cheeks. It is a small miracle in my mind that we then held out until after supper, to see how much of that same delicious concoction we could smear across our own cheeks.

Another, seldom seen, sister prompted a lunch date at Alison’s, in Kennebunk Port. The coconut fried shrimp I ordered gave me a moment’s pause, as they were coated right out to their shiny tails and I did not at first know which end was ‘up’. I had less trouble eating an almond crusted, and filled, pastry at Panera Bread in Biddeford some days later. The crab and havarti sandwich I enjoyed this very afternoon at Federal Jack’s, again in Kennebunk Port, was a perfect blend of melted cheese and flaking, but not too fishy crab.

Food, food, glorious food, for thee I do give thanks.

One food that I have never enjoyed, was grudgingly given a second chance during this visit. After a nearly disastrous run-in with whole fried, perhaps baby, squids, abundantly scattered across my first ever pan of paella, I have avoided calamari with diligence. As with broccoli, leeks, and steak however, I may have to change my mind on this food point.

Last night some friends of mine took me to a favored Thai place in Portland. Bangkok Thai Restaurant, on Congress Street, has a pleasant golden atmosphere and it’s choices of spiciness run from mild to very hot, with ten stars, and the number 911 helpfully included. Clever spats between my dinner mates as well as a very nice plate of Pud Thai made the evening enjoyable to all my senses.

It was here that the calamari struck, in the form of an appetizer, lightly battered and deep fried, accompanied by a sweet and sour chili sauce. I very nearly didn’t eat any, visions of tiny squids – heads, brains, and suction cups still attached – leering at me from a distant Santa Fe paella pan. My friends goaded, and then resorted to daring me, and when it became a matter of guts I decided that I could probably swallow some squidy stomach.

Fortunately for me, these were only tentacles. Fat tentacles, with the batter barely clinging. But what lovely, buttery batter, and what surprisingly tender, mysteriously tasty tentacle. I believe I hid my shock quite well, and only cooly declared them to be ‘better than I expected’.

I can now admit that I was sorry to see that they were equally enjoyed by the rest of the party and disappeared with a speed that left me in the dust, sucking on a still tantalizingly flavored finger. I will also admit, that when I make my way home again in a day or two, I may have to return to the Bangkok Thai Restaurant and order a cold Singha and my own personal plate of the once dreaded calamari.

I guess what I have learned from this experience is that I am thankful for second chances – and second helpings. I’ll take my tentacles, and eat them too.


  1. Ha! HA!

    Told you. Sorry we ate them all.

    Oh, wait. No I’m not.

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