I am not a foodie. I bought a can of octopus parts to go with the anchovies I planned to spread in a beet juice sauce over white rice for dinner.
“Anchovies are rich in omega three fatty acids,” I told my daughter, an emergency room nurse, pretending that I knew what I was talking about. Up until recently, I thought omega three was a Charlton Heston movie.
“Besides, a three-ounce serving of octopus has twenty-five grams of protein. What could possibly go wrong?”
“Food poisoning,” she said.
Food poisoning it was. As soon as I peeled back the lid of the octopus can, I could tell something was off but proceeded with reckless abandon anyway. It might be more accurate to say stupid abandon. I never bothered to check the expiration date, which I have been doing of late, since you never know what to expect out of a grocery store in the Bronx. It’s like Cracker Jacks that way.
I won’t go into the particulars except to say that it was an eventful experience at both ends. I resorted to my homemade remedy of raw garlic and ginger. That worked, but it took a few days to clean things out. It reminded me of a trip I took years ago to El Salvador with students, some of whom drank contaminated water. I forced them to eat raw garlic until they begged for mercy. I felt that they were now exacting their revenge.
I haven’t done anything this stupid since eating a ham sandwich from a vending machine on a Sunday. That was one of the follies of my youth. I wouldn’t recommend eating anything out of a vending machine, let alone from one that hasn’t been serviced in three days.
Eating octopus out of a can is like slipping on a banana peel: iconic and ridiculous at the same time. I did it despite the fact that there were two fish markets within a half block of the grocery store. One of them sold me the anchovies.
“You couldn’t have gone back for the octopus?” my daughter asked.
“Too much work,” I told her.
There’s a guy online named Dr. Axe who offers advice about health and nutrition. He also knows a lot about vegetables. I’m not sure if he’s the same guy who sells body wash to junior high school boys, but he looked legit. I took his test to determine what type of gut I have. He has identified five types: immune, toxic, candida, gastric, and stressed. I came out immune, but I think it’s because I said yes to the antibiotics question, which was something like, “Have you ever for whatever reason taken an antibiotic or spoken to a family member who has taken one?” I was tempted to write back suggesting a sixth gut type: stupid gut. This occurs when you do things like eat octopus out of a can.
What is the lesson to be learned in my affaire de poulpe? I believe it is to avoid stupid. This includes everything from stupid gut and abandon to stupid decisions and relationships. Run from them like the plague. I will do so with the memory of tainted octopus forever tingling the back of my throat. But I promise to do it.
Keeping my word will be tough, because what makes stupid gut so dangerous is me. I am the one who gives power to stupid gut and everything else in my life that is stupid. But do not snicker, dear reader, for I am not alone in this. Stupidity cannot exist without our approval, without our surrender to laziness. When we get lazy we stop searching for the truth, simply because it is inconvenient. Just as going back to the fish market half a block away was too much work. I suppose in this sense we were meant for work, at least for checking expiration dates.
Of course, the lesson here could be that I should pay more attention to my daughters. The emergency room nurse will no doubt agree.