I don’t like cala­mari. It’s not a big deal, but it’s emphat­ic. I real­ly don’t like the stuff. It’s rub­bery and unpleas­ant in the mouth and it tastes like dead fish. So I don’t like calamari. 

I’m sur­round­ed by peo­ple who loooove cala­mari so I can’t fig­ure out why I don’t. And every five or 10 years I lose some of my sense and fig­ure: What the heck — it can’t be that bad. Everyone else loves it, and I love all these oth­er things that they love. Even dif­fi­cult things. Like roast­ed brus­sels sprouts. So I’ll try it. Um, no. It’s always a total, damned-near-to-gagging-at-the-table (my grand­moth­er would be appalled by my man­ners) fail­ure. Some things are just not meant to be liked by me. 

It’s not that I spend a lot of time think­ing about my hatred of cala­mari. In fact I would say that I spend more time think­ing about tooth­paste or shoelaces than cala­mari. It only comes into my con­scious­ness at all when I pass it by on the appe­tiz­ers sec­tion of the menu at the Italian place in town. You know going through the appe­tiz­ers… Antipasto plate — no, too much; bruschet­ta — maybe; cala­mari — ugh, No; bread sticks and fruity olive oil — yeah, that’s what I’m in the mood for.

On the oth­er hand I can dis­like olives with­out the dra­ma. No, I don’t like olives. But my dis­like of olives is just a basic “I’d rather not but it won’t kill me if there are some in the sal­ad.” I’ll pick out the ones I can see and leave them on the side of the plate but if I acci­den­tal­ly get one on my fork and into my mouth then it’s not great trau­ma, I just won’t like that bite of sal­ad as much as the one before or the one after — unless of course I’m being par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­less and both of those also con­tain an olive. Okay, there’a cer­tain lev­el of sus­pense in the olive thing, but not real drama. 

Calamari involves dra­ma. An unsus­pect­ed bite of cala­mari is absolute­ly revolt­ing. That tex­ture first and then the taste of bilge water. (Yeah, I do know what bilge water tastes like, and yeah, I do think that cala­mari car­ries with it not only the taste of stag­nant sea water but a hint of kerosene.) There’s an actu­al catch in my stom­ach and a lit­tle hint of a flip — a threat, if you will, that any fur­ther attempts to inflict cala­mari on the sys­tem will result in open revolt. 

There’s some­thing shame­ful in not lik­ing cala­mari, it’s like not lik­ing oys­ters. Calamari, like oys­ters, are grown up food. Marks of hav­ing made it out of child­hood food pref­er­ences and taboos. Being will­ing to eat those salty, sea-tasting and rankly slimy del­i­ca­cies. I’m not an oys­ter fan either, but some­how I don’t find myself try­ing oys­ters every five or 10 years and being revolt­ed back into my senses. 

Some peo­ple are like olives — the ones I’d just as soon avoid but if they end up in the same con­ver­sa­tion­al group at a par­ty it’s not big deal. I won’t walk away or sulk and I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly won­der how it is that any­one else could like that per­son. They’re just not my taste. Live and let live. 

No mat­ter how much my friends and fam­i­ly are always going on on about them — “Joe is so fun­ny.” “Lucy is so sweet and a great cook!” Joe and Lucy just aren’t going to be on my list of peo­ple I want to spend time with. Joe is an ego­tis­ti­cal blow hard and Lucy is just so damned twee it makes my teeth ache. On the oth­er hand Joe is someone’s favorite uncle and Lucy has nev­er let any­one suf­fer a bereave­ment with­out a good sup­ply of casseroles in their freez­er. But they’re like olives. It’s not going to ruin my evening if they hap­pen to cross my path or end up monop­o­liz­ing a bit of con­ver­sa­tion. They’re just olives. 

And then there are the cala­mari peo­ple. The ones whom I can’t under­stand how any­one tol­er­ates, and whose pres­ence I will actu­al­ly be rude to avoid. There’s Tony who is con­sis­tent­ly cru­el in the way that only guys who weren’t one of the cool kids then but are now can be. And Joyce whose all-encompassing jeal­ousy poi­sons even the most casu­al friendship.

The stu­pid thing is that for at least one of them I have to go back and remind myself every so many years why I don’t like them. It takes for­ev­er to get the taste of kerosene out of my mouth. 

2 replies on “Calamari”

  1. Wonderful. I find myself spec­u­lat­ing on who the peo­ple are: I’m cer­tain that I know Joe and Lucy, for example. 

    I, on the oth­er hand, can’t stand oat­meal and lima beans…

Comments are closed.