Sunday, May 18, 2008

What's in a Name?

Would you eat Chinese gooseberries?

No? Then how about kiwifruit?

Ooh, delicious!

Funny, they're the exact same thing. Chinese gooseberries weren't selling until some New Zealand marketing genius rebranded them as kiwifruit. The rest is supermarket history.

And now we have sea cucumbers, the subject of an entertaining article in Polite Magazine.
A sea cucumber is a deep water Holothurian echinoderm that lives in dense communities on the sea floor, generally grows from four to 36 inches long, and, when harvested, cleaned, and deyhdrated, looks remarkably like a penis. “Pani pani de mahi mahi means ‘Sea cucumbers taste good.’ Don’t say that to a woman in the Marshall Islands,” says Erik Hagberg, who should know.

Hagberg, a 29-year-old New Jersey native, is the enthusiastic CEO of Pacific Aquaculture Cooperatives International, a small company that has developed a proprietary method for sustainably farming sea cucumbers in the remote atoll waters of the South Pacific....

Hagberg plans to familiarize Americans with his product by means of clever marketing—he has considered selling his product under the name “Ginseng of the Sea”...
Which brings to mind a dinner date during my wayward youth. We were at a Chinese restaurant in Lower Manhattan and there was an item on the menu I hadn't seen before.

"What are sea cucumbers?" I asked the typically crusty Chinese waiter.

"Thass sea srug! You awdah, you can't send it back!" Apparently he'd had this experience with other Big Noses. I ordered shrimp.

A couple minutes later, I saw a platter being delivered to a table of Asians. Laid out on a bed of greens were what looked like lines of giant snot.

"What's that?" I asked the waiter.

"Sea cucumber!" he snapped again.

I wish Mr. Hagberg the best of luck with his endeavor. However, sea cucumber/sea slug/Ginseng of the Sea remains in the #2 spot on my list of Things I Won't Ingest. (No. 1 forever is Super Blue-Green Algae; these lips will never touch pond scum.)

N.B. Check out the Wikipedia entry on sea cucumber, which notes under one photo that it "ejects sticky filaments from the anus in self-defence." Yum!

No comments: