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There is an interesting aspect to the definition of “appetizer.” A secondary definition after its main meaning – a food or drink usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite – describes an appetizer as a before-dinner food served if there is to be a long wait for the main dish.
Therefore, you or your guests won’t be ravenous when dinner finally arrives. It appears that this is how things are these days in the General Assembly, where calamari is concerned.
When our lawmakers on Smith Hill decided to again work on legislation to designate calamari as the state’s official appetizer, it was met with a heaping helping of derision from several quarters. What business do elected representatives have taking up frivolous matters such as this when the future of the state is in jeopardy, some asked. If the distinguished members of the Assembly take the usual tack and act on this as just another honorary title being bestowed on a popular food item that is somewhat indigenous to the state, the wags are right.
But the giving of an official designation to calamari just may be the opportunity to get the state’s economy back on track. If the state gets behind this like other states that have granted official status to their iconic foods, it could be a serving of real benefit.
Rep. Deb Ruggerio, D-Jamestown, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick, was recently quoted as saying, “Calamari could be to Rhode Island what lobster is to Maine.” In 2013, Maine state legislators passed a bill allowing the lobster industry to tax itself so it can market what has become an overabundance of lobster. The industry raised $2.5 million. “The money will be used to market the Maine lobster brand,” Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, told a public radio interviewer. The industry will also put its brand on new food products containing Maine lobster because “lobster is becoming an ingredient,” McCarron said. By the way, lobster sales in 2013 in Maine totaled over $360 million. And as a sidebar, chef Matthew MacCartney, of the restaurant Jamestown Fish, told me recently that a seafood supplier from Portland, Maine, that he does business with regularly offers Point Judith calamari.
How about working toward a goal to make calamari to Rhode Island what citrus fruit is to Florida? That state has an entire Department of Citrus. Back in 1935, the legislature in the Sunshine State passed a Florida Citrus Code. The Florida Citrus Commission and the Florida Department of Citrus were established as an agency of the state government to provide marketing, research and regulatory support to the fruit industry. Marketing activities account for most of the department’s work.