Breaking: No One Actually Sells Pig Rectums As ‘Imitation Calamari’

For the last week or so, public radio listeners haven’t been able to look at their deep-fried appetizers quite the same way. That’s because two weekends ago, the WBEZ/PRI program “This American Life” investigated a reader’s tip that in a meat-packing plant somewhere in America, there was a box of pig rectums with the words “Imitation Calamari” printed on the side.

It’s a classic urban legend: equal parts disgusting and kind-of-sort-of plausible. The exact origin was also difficult to pin down: you know, the reader’s cousin’s friend’s sister once dated a guy who worked in a meat-packing plant, and one of his co-workers totally saw a box like that once. Maybe.

The final conclusion of the radio piece was that there are no documented cases of squid/bung switcheroo in culinary history. Does that mean there couldn’t be? Obviously, this led to a taste test, which was inconclusive. One staff member who frequently ate calamari actually preferred the deep-fried bung. He also doesn’t eat calamari anymore.

A week later, Slate conclusively laid the rumor to rest: you can deep-fry chitlins, but no one’s passing them off as calamari. Legends like this come out of our discomfort with how disconnected we are from the sources of our food. If you don’t prepare your food and the first time you see it is after it’s been deep-fried and laid out on a platter, maybe it really could be pig bung. If there really are beaver anal gland sacs, calf stomach enzymes, and ground-up bugs in perfectly normal foods, why not deep-fried pork poop chutes?

Rump Faker [Slate]
484: Doppelgängers [This American Life]