Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Allez cuisine, and please pass the cuttlefish

Tonight on Iron Chef, it's Battle Cuttlefish.

See, this is why Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is seriously disadvantaged on the new Iron Chef America. Morimoto knows what to do with a cuttlefish. His culinary skills were honed on cuttlefish, cod roe, sea urchin, natto, and the other uniquely Japanese fare that frequently appeared as the theme ingredients on the original Iron Chef. The new Americanized series, however, features a judging panel which in all the episodes to date has been overwhelmingly — if not, indeed, exclusively — comprised of North American Anglos, most of whom wouldn't know a cuttlefish if it attached itself to their faces like in the first Alien movie.

Myself, I understand cuttlefish. Having spend a goodly portion of my formative years in Hawaii and the Philippines, I have a deep appreciation for the vagaries of authentic Pacific Rim cuisine. Many's the time when I, as a mere cygnet, snacked gleefully on dried cuttlefish, shrimp, and seaweed rice crackers from the Asian aisle at the supermarket. Morimoto and I speak the same culinary language.

But he's not going to win many matches on Iron Chef America unless they start seeding the tasting panel with some Japanese folks. Or me. I'd be delighted to volunteer.

This, for the benefit of you sheltered lifelong mainlanders, is a cuttlefish.

No, it's not a fish. It's a cephalopod, related to the squids and octopi. And it's "cuttle," not "cuddle" — the cuttle is the rigid bonelike shell on the inside of the creature's body, like a squid's pen. If you want to cuddle one, be my guest. I prefer not to play with my food.

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