Remarkably Bright and Tasty Creatures

July 30, 2023

Camping Summers aren't as good for me as Sailboat Summers when it comes to plowing through books. A good 80% of what I read happens during the summer, and long passages really lend themselves to uninterrupted reading.

One of the books I read this summer was Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. The next paragraph has a mild spoiler, so force your eyes to jump over it if you think you might read this, and you're super spoiler-averse.

This isn't really the plot, but it turns on the event where a big octopus in an aquarium perceives something that his humans don't, and he engineers a way to make them realize what he knows. This sounds so stupid -- and it is -- but it isn't as stupid as it sounds.

But in real life, I guess they're fairly smart. Remember the one who escaped from his aquarium a few years ago? And that beautifully-shot documentary about the guy who makes friends with an octopus who lives in his favorite coastal swimming hole was just great.

You know what else about octopuses?

They taste pretty damned good.

Last summer in Croatia, we were making our way up the coast and saw that the town of Orebić was both coastal and featured wineries. So we booked a couple of nights. At our first restaurant, we asked if there was someone who could take us around to wine taste. The owner of the restaurant got on the phone, and in a few minutes, we had an appointment and a reasonable price for a drive who would cart us around and put up with us gradually getting more and more wine-drunk.
Wine tasting with a view.

(I'm digressing, but Croatian white wine is so good. To me, it's completely different that what we get here -- crisp without being sweet somehow. I highly recommend.)

On the way to one of our early stops. Mrs. theskinnyonbenny asked about uniquely Croatian experiences that we should seek out. He told us to find a place that would make a peka. It's a traditional roast, where a meat gets put into an iron pot with vegetables, set directly into hot coals, and left to cook slowly all day.

Fast forward a few days, and at a seaside restaurant in Hvar, the waitresses checked with the kitchen and came back excited to tell us what time to return the following night for an octopus peka.
Restaurant view

We arrived at our appointed time the next night and were ushered to the best table in the house, overlooking all of the boats anchored in the harbor. The same server brought us two shot glasses of some horrible licorice-tasting Mediterranean liqueur. We didn't know if it was a shot or a sipper. I chose to shoot it and get it over with. We quickly ordered a bottle of Croatian white to wash that taste away.

After that, we got to go visit the kitchen. We saw the pot in the coals, and the chef opened it up to show us our octopus and vegetables. He had swum out into the harbor and caught the octopus before adding it to the pot.

The whole pot got placed center-table, and we cut it up and dished it out. The meat had the texture of a scallop, and a little of that sweet-seafood flavor, but also with a rich, beefy flavor. It was very very good.
Our chef and his co-worker, who were familiar with the interstate exit they would take to come to our house. Wild!

We talked to the chef some more after we ate, and it turned out that we was back home in Hvar after having completed college at Louisiana-Lafayette, just 45 minutes from our home. He brought his girlfriend over to meet us (she was working in the same restaurant), and she had gone to University there with him too. They were both on track and field scholarships, and they were planning a return to the US university system to coach.

There are more pictures from this part of our trip posted here. There are a lot of great pics from that trip, so go look if you haven't seen them.