The Strange Case of the Octopus & the Kentucky Church Groups

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 The Strange Case of the Octopus and the Kentucky Church Groups

-Nic Brown-



My wife Fiona and I both share a common interest in writing. I write fiction; werewolves, magic, and guns tend to populate my stories. Fiona, while she’s written some very good fiction, has made her name in non-fiction with books like “A Culinary History of Kentucky”, “Wicked Lexington” & “Nuclear Fusion and Fission”. Though our focus tends to be different, we both wanted to work together on a project. The success of “A Culinary History of Kentucky” with its blend of history and recipes gave us the idea to collaborate on a cookbook themed around another love we both share: B-Movies. That was how the idea for “The B-Movie Cookbook” was born. 

Of course the idea for the book was the easy part. We still had a lot to do including selecting the films and figuring out the recipes that would go with each of them. We decided it would be important to include at least one of the classic Universal Studios monster movies, especially since the studio has been trying to reboot their monster series with 2017’s big-budget Tom Cruise vehicle The Mummy. However, we wanted to limit our film selections to one decade and that was the 1950s. That made our choice of Universal monsters easy. The last one to be considered part of the original cannon was The Creature from The Black Lagoon.


We had our movie with Creature, but we didn’t have a dish yet. One we considered was an octopus risotto. The combination, especially with the rice died black with squid ink, sounded both tasty and like something that would fit with an underwater monster movie. That was where we ran into our problem. While Kentucky has a diverse selection of foods and central Kentucky has numerous international and specialty food markets, we had no luck finding fresh octopus. After trying all the major stores in town, Fiona suggested we visit a local specialty butchers.


After all the disappointments we’d had in our quest, we didn’t hold out much hope when we entered the butcher and seafood shop. Fiona approached the counter and asked if they had any fresh octopus.


Much to our delight and surprise, the man behind the counter said that he thought they still had some in stock. Before going to look he asked us an unexpected question. “So which church are you with?”


With Kentucky being one of the notches in the Bible Belt, it’s not uncommon to be asked about one’s church affiliation. However, that usually doesn’t come up with a butcher when you’re asking about octopus. Curiously we asked why he wanted to know.

“Well you’re buying fresh octopus,” he said as though that was the most obvious reason in the world to wonder our religious choices. This immediately set my mind to wondering if the Cult of Cthulhu from an H.P. Lovecraft story was making a comeback in the region and if we’d accidentally tripped over a password to gain admittance to some dark ritual.


Fiona, like me, was taken slightly aback by the statement. While my mind raced with thoughts of cultists with knives and nets coming to ensnare us for sacrifice to one of the old ones, she was a bit more reasonably inclined and asked him what that had to do with church. 


“Oh well you know the churches and their ultimate Frisbee leagues,” he responded. Seeing that we were still confused, it was now his turn to be puzzled. “You’re not buying octopus for a church Frisbee league?”


Fiona explained that we were looking for octopus to cook and told him about the recipe she was planning. The confusion quickly left him, though ours was growing as he admitted they sold quite a bit of octopus, but we were the first people in quite a while to want it for cooking.  He went on to explain that many of the local churches had youth groups that were involved in playing ultimate Frisbee. The game is a non-contact sport similar soccer or rugby, except that the person with the Frisbee cannot move. Goals are scored by catching the Frisbee in the other teams ‘end zone’.


Apparently someone got the idea that it would be fun to play the game with an octopus instead of a Frisbee. This had started a trend and now it was a regular weekend thing to have people come into the store and buy whole octopus for the games.


This revelation fascinated and somewhat disgusted us as we imagined tossing a fresh octopus. We asked if he’d ever seen it played that way. He admitted that he’d been invited to join one of the league games and showed us photos. The octopus did not fare well during the course of the game and was a slimy, gooey mess long before a full game was played. That’s why players would often buy more than one.


He also had a short video clip and this showed a fresh octopus tossed, arms spread out around it as it sort of spun, sort of wobbled through the air, an excited player catching the slimy flying cephalopod. We didn’t see anyone score, but the photos of the remains of an octopus after a few rounds were enough to let us know that it wasn’t an activity either of us would be trying soon.

At this point the butcher went to get us our octopus from the back. He returned a few minutes later, empty handed. It seemed that the church groups must have been playing that weekend because he was fresh out. He was sure there would be some more delivered early the next week and asked if we wanted him to set one aside for us.


We looked at each other, both apparently thinking of the horrific remains of the octopus from the photos and declined his offer. We instead bought giant crab legs and later found some small squid like you’d use to make calamari and we went with that for our Creature from The Black Lagoon risotto dish.  The modified dish turned out great and the contrast of the giant crab legs’ orange and white shell colors set it nicely against the squid ink darkened rice. But I still wonder if “The B-Movie Cookbook” would have been a little different if the Lexington church youth groups had taken up soccer.

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