Rhode Island is the East Coat capital of squid, according to Sen. Susan V. Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Rep. Joseph McNamara (D-Dist. 29, Warwick, Cranston).
And that's why they're introducing a bill that would make Rhode Island-style calamari - battered, fried and served with hot peppers — the state's official appetizer.
“It is the juxtaposition of those two things – that squid is the state’s most valuable commercial fishery and that a cuisine distinctive to Rhode Island is served and enjoyed around the country – that make this special to our state, something to call our own,” Sosnowski said.
Landings in Rhode Island are worth about $18.5 million. About 23.5 million pounds per year come in through the states fisheries.
McNamara, who introduced similar legislation last session that did not pass, said, “I believe Senator Sosnowski’s sponsorship of the bill in her chamber will build the support to see it enacted this year. Her commitment to the environment and economic health of the state are greatly respected.”
“One thing that hasn’t changed since last year,” McNamara said, “is my belief that it is important for Rhode Island to boast about its strengths, to market its many positives and to use what’s special about us to help grow our economy.”
According to a release, if confirmed as the “official state appetizer,” calamari would join the likes of coffee milk (official state drink), the Rhode Island greening apple (official state fruit), quahog (official state shellfish), striped bass (official state fish), the Rhode Island red (official bird) and, though not edible, Bowenite (official mineral), Cumberlandite (official rock) and Red maple (official tree).
The bills proposing the official designation present a number of findings:
- More pounds of squid are brought to store in Rhode Island than any other seafood;
- Rhode Island has the largest squid-fishing fleet along the eastern seaboard;
- The fishing, hospitality and tourism industry is crucial to the economy of the state;
- Rhode Island has some of the finest restaurants in the country;
- The appetizer known as “Rhode Island-style calamari” is prepared and served nationwide, and,
- Squid is to Rhode Island what lobster is to Maine and cod is to Massachusetts.
McNamara can personally attest to that. During a recent trip to Seattle, the squid he was served at a restaurant (though not crispy fried rings served with pickled hot peppers) came from Rhode Island waters. “A fisheries wholesaler I met there raved about serving Rhode Island squid, calling it fresh, local (i.e., from the U.S.), and sustainable.”
“And Rhode Island-style calamari is delicious,” Sosnowski, said. “An opinion I share with countless restaurants, cookbook authors and TV food shows.”