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Are baby octopuses really babies?

jerosoma Oct 11, 2011 08:06 AM

I'm serious. If someone can tell me whether the tiny octopuses you can get in Japanese and other restaurants and occasionally in seafood markets for home cooking are a small species of octopus or truly infant cephalopods, I would appreciate it. A friend and eating partner is now refusing to eat them because it seems cruel, and I've found no information online. So I'm appealing to my fellow savvy chowhounds to enlighten me. Many thanks.

  1. emglow101 Oct 11, 2011 09:40 PM

    Let them grow.The men who caught them and serve them grilled. Manarola.Italy

    1. scubadoo97 Oct 11, 2011 05:50 PM

      seems like conscious eating is becoming the food rule of the hour. Several people in the "What Are Your Irrefutable Food Rules" thread stated that they won't eat octopus because it's intelligent. I know some people that are dumber than an octopus. Are they fair game? What about pigs? They are pretty intelligent.

      Pass the lemon

      6 Replies
      1. re: scubadoo97
        Veggo Oct 11, 2011 06:16 PM

        I know that you are equally conflicted with how friendly (but dumb) grouper are, and how intelligent and curious octopi are, underwater, but both are so delicious above sea level. I especially enjoy passing a probing octopus onto a newbee diver, and watching!
        Later, "Mesero, mas ceviche mixto, mientras pienso esto."

        1. re: Veggo
          scubadoo97 Oct 11, 2011 06:23 PM


          I guess I won't feel bad when the dumb hogfish swims up to my spear. Well maybe for a second.

          1. re: scubadoo97
            Veggo Oct 11, 2011 06:32 PM

            Yes! Boquinette, frito entero, con ajo. It doesn't get any better. Maybe a side of salsa veracruzano. My absolute favorite eating fish.
            I pay attention after I spear them, you know the drill. It's not over, yet.

            1. re: Veggo
              scubadoo97 Oct 11, 2011 07:05 PM

              unless it's a head shot which with hogs is a pretty good bet

        2. re: scubadoo97
          Chemicalkinetics Oct 11, 2011 07:50 PM

          That is an excellent question. I mean it. It really is a good moral question. What is considered cruel or inhumane? Does eating an intelligent being more cruel than eating a sophisticated one? To answer that question, one has to first define cruelty and humanity, either of which I will directly discuss. Some may say that intelligent has much to do with this, but I will play the counter argument game.

          If this is true, then is it a universal value system and can we translate this to human? Can we say an intelligent human being simply is more human than a less intelligent man. So when faced with limited medical supply, we will save the intelligent ones first, not because they are more valuable to our society which I am sure many people will argue, but literlally the intelligent people are more human, and it would have been inhumane to save a less intelligent man over a intelligent one. Also what about human infants, babies, and children? Are their brain less developed and less intelligent?

          Pass the lemon.

          1. re: scubadoo97
            bobbert Oct 12, 2011 04:41 AM

            I would argue that the really smart ones don't get caught in the first place. We're only eating the stupid ones so it's ok.

          2. BobB Oct 11, 2011 01:31 PM

            Off topic but this thread reminded me of a meal I had in the south of France a couple of weeks ago, in an Italian restaurant in Antibes. Tagliolini with calamaretti, made with the absolute tiniest calamari I've ever seen. This is an ENTIRE squid in the photo!

            7 Replies
            1. re: BobB
              cajundave Oct 11, 2011 02:13 PM

              I have never seen them that small. It must have been good though because it looks like there's nothing else left on the plate!

              1. re: cajundave
                Veggo Oct 11, 2011 02:14 PM

                I think Bob is tricking us with a giant fork.

                1. re: Veggo
                  linguafood Oct 11, 2011 02:31 PM

                  Totally agree. He's messing with our tiny heads...

                  1. re: Veggo
                    pdxgastro Oct 11, 2011 03:20 PM

                    We need a CSI scale.

                    1. re: Veggo
                      BobB Oct 12, 2011 07:03 AM

                      No way, dude - they're really that small! I assume they're a local specialty as this was a regular menu item, not a special of the day. And yes, it was very good.

                      The restaurant is called Sapori d'Italia, it's on the Côte d'Azur about 30 km or so southwest of the French/Italian border.

                      1. re: BobB
                        BobB Oct 12, 2011 12:39 PM

                        I just googled calamaretti and found that it has several meanings, including a type of pasta, but one of them is this very small squid. Apparently it's more typically served fried - I found several pics on Tripadvisor from restaurants in Italy.

                  2. re: BobB
                    jumpingmonk Oct 11, 2011 04:59 PM

                    At that size, I almost wonder if someone simply got thier hands on a mess of ready to hatch squid eggs, and popped them.

                    Actually there is one big advantage to eating your octopi small, they are more tender then. You know all those tricks they mention for cooking an octopus (hitting them against a rock 100 times, adding champagne corks etc.) well most of them were desigend for big octopuses which can be really chewy.
                    But as far as I am concerned I will eat any octopus, of any size, provided some creatively demented Australian chef does not try and serve me blue ringed octopus (I don't know if they can kill you if you eat them, but I am not keen to find out).

                  3. m
                    mateo21 Oct 11, 2011 08:28 AM

                    Well... technically they're larvae (or paralarvae...) being cephalopods and all, maybe that will help them out?

                    Why on earth is the NOT cruel to eat the adult version but cruel and unthinkable to eat the immature version?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: mateo21
                      Veggo Oct 11, 2011 08:56 AM

                      Maybe because a single serving of the little tykes requires a greater loss of lives?

                      1. re: Veggo
                        Chemicalkinetics Oct 11, 2011 07:40 PM

                        Nah, if that is true, then it won't have mattered if these baby octopuses are real babies or small size species.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          DeppityDawg Oct 12, 2011 08:27 AM

                          Not to mention the loss of life (fish, shrimp, clams, etc.) required for a baby octopus to grow into an adult octopus.

                          In this case, it does look like the "don't eat babies" thing is based on sentimentalism or squeamishness and not logical or ecological arguments. But at the same time, I am all for people having a closer look and a long hard think about what's in their plate and how it got there and what the implications/consequences of their choices are, and whether they still feel completely comfortable with their eating habits.

                      2. re: mateo21
                        thimes Oct 11, 2011 08:59 AM

                        I think by the time we would even see and recognize them they are no longer paralarvae, they would be past the developmental stage. So maybe they are more akin to "teen" octopus if you consider that stage as well.

                        1. re: thimes
                          Veggo Oct 11, 2011 09:02 AM

                          That sounds about right. On one dive, I saw an octopus about a foot across, and it appeared to be carrying a tube of Clearasil.

                          1. re: Veggo
                            Servorg Oct 11, 2011 10:28 AM

                            "Maybe because a single serving of the little tykes requires a greater loss of lives?"

                            Sea creatures, especially the little tykes, are gobbled up way before maturity by a host of larger predators. I doubt that we (the two legged ego beasts) eat the majority of the little ones...

                      3. linguafood Oct 11, 2011 08:22 AM

                        Does your 'eating partner' eat suckling pig, veal, lamb, poussin?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: linguafood
                          Maximilien Oct 11, 2011 08:24 AM

                          eggs ?! :-)

                          1. re: Maximilien
                            linguafood Oct 11, 2011 08:28 AM

                            oh, forgot about chicken fetus. the BEST. i try to eat two every day.

                            1. re: linguafood
                              mateo21 Oct 11, 2011 08:30 AM

                              Forgetting, of course, that eating eggs aren't fertilized!

                              1. re: mateo21
                                linguafood Oct 11, 2011 08:42 AM

                                That's ok. I don't like my eggs fertilized in the morning :-D

                                1. re: mateo21
                                  Will Owen Oct 11, 2011 06:04 PM

                                  "Forgetting, of course, that eating eggs aren't fertilized!" Not usually, but there was a local chain in Nashville that carried a brand of fertilized eggs. They were reputed to be better for you, lower bad cholesterol, yada yada. And let's not even discuss balut eggs!

                          2. f
                            ferret Oct 11, 2011 08:15 AM

                            Does he have a cutoff point? For example, is eating teen octopii okay but not pre-teens? What if they're all sullen and self-absorbed?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ferret
                              thimes Oct 11, 2011 08:20 AM

                              I was going to advocate for eating teen animals myself!

                              1. re: thimes
                                Siobhan Oct 11, 2011 07:09 PM


                              2. re: ferret
                                sunshine842 Oct 11, 2011 01:38 PM


                              3. t
                                thimes Oct 11, 2011 08:13 AM

                                I do believe they are young octopus not just a small species of octopus.

                                though I'm not sure why eating an "old" octopus is any less cruel than eating a "young" octopus . . . . . being middle aged myself i selfishly think it is cruel to eat animals that are middle aged!!

                                Did a quick search on Monterey Bay Aquarium's site:

                                "Another menu offering might be “baby octopus” which could either be a juvenile common octopus or an adult octopus of a smaller species. What is clear is that it can be very difficult to determine what octopus one is eating. Tako is available year-round and served in a variety of forms including: live, fresh, dried, frozen, cured, salted, and brined. "

                                But it goes on to suggest that the common octopus is, well, "common" since it reproduces quickly and in relatively large numbers. So seems like baby octopus are likely babies but "could" be adults of another species.

                                Edit: from Mateo's posting below it should be clarified that I'm using "baby" loosely. Most octopi life cycles are first eggs, which then hatch and become paralarvae (a few millimeters in length), which float through the oceans for a while, which then settle and become very small octopus, which grow and become "baby" octopus and then if not eaten adult octopus. So the stage we think of as "baby" is really a little ways into the life cycle of most octopi.

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