Some things seem foolish that aren’t

We’ve all heard the grumbling. Why are the legislators on Smith Hill focusing on whether calamari should be the official state appetizer? “Do some real work” a skeptical public asserted.
Yet Representative Joseph McNamara (D-Warwick) was right in pushing this legislation. Many places, like Louisiana with their oysters, beignets and po’ boys, have used food to attract tourism. Rhode Island is a superstar in catching squid. In 2012, Rhode Island fishermen (and women) brought in a total of 23.5 million pounds of squid. That’s right, boys and girls, “M” as in million. That’s nearly 50 percent of the entire catch of the East Coast’s quota. In value, that’s $18.6 million, making squid the state’s most lucrative fishery, according to the Providence Journal (June 27, 2014).
One advantage Rhode Island has is that the Town Dock, a wholesale fish dealer, has its own processing plant and can also freeze the product before shipping it to other states. As one of the executives of Town Dock noted, not only does this catch benefit the boat owners, but also the shore side businesses, the processors, the unloaders, the fuel businesses, the ship repair businesses and the net-building businesses — all locally owned and operated.
So, despite the naysayers, promotion of the squid industry helps our tourism and hospitality industries, besides those that are fishing industry-related. You only have to sample all the ways that calamari is made on the menus of various restaurants to know that a gourmand break-out cannot be far behind!
Just recently a business friend of mine told me that he was in San Diego for a conference. At lunch time he went to a local restaurant whose menu touted Rhode Island calamari as one of the appetizers. My friend asked   what was so special about Rhode Island calamari. The waiter rhapsodized about its freshness and the various ways squid rings are made, the best recipe being fried and tossed with hot cherry peppers. Foodies in this state, no doubt, have had delectable offerings of calamari prepared in different ways — so can a calamari cook-off be far behind? In any event, focusing on this food product also promotes all the other wonderful catch from Rhode Island waters and can only enhance the reputations of restaurants, as visitors want to taste what all the commotion is about.
So, it’s really a boon to have a popular dish identified with our state served nationwide. We residents can also be ambassadors of Little Rhody when we have visitors from out of state. Along with clam cakes and Rhode Island chowder, we should be encouraging the spending of a few shekels on calamari as we urge our guests to try the appetizer.
Calamari as the official appetizer is fun and, mark my word, will soon be on Food network’s “Chopped” show as a secret ingredient in its competitions. Meanwhile, let’s give credit where it is due and tip our hats to Representative McNamara for his persistence, and Senator Susan Sosnowski who carried the dish on the senate side. It’s nice to have a culinary dish so rooted in one of our key industries.

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