This was my column in yesterday’s GoLocalProv. The beginning …
I’m not sure why I think of eels at Christmas. I guess because they were served with the Christmas Eve dinner. My family loved them; some considering the dish a delicacy. My lack of enthusiasm probably started when I was a kid at our rented home on the Narragansett, RI shore. My uncle took me to the dock to see the fisherman catching eels one night. At eight years old, I was afraid of the dark, so perhaps the stage was set.
As they pulled the serpentine eels out of the water, I watched the slimy snakes squirm, opening and closing their mouths. They were fish but had imperceptible gills, no scales, and no noticeable (to me in the dark) fins except for some kind of ribbon thing along their back.
The next time I saw them was when that same uncle’s mother was making a fish sauce. Perking on her stove was a red gravy and sticking out were the antennas of squid flailing amid hunks of dark mounds. “I’m cooking squid and the darker things are anguilla, eels.” Even in the gravy, they looked mysterious.
And then, somewhere along my educational way, I was told of the uncorroborated theory of spontaneous generation; the eel being its example. Aristotle believed that they were sexless and considered them natural originators. Our professor told us that the eels Aristotle caught were just sexually immature.
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