STATE HOUSE – A newspaper report of a few years ago had this lead paragraph: “An ugly, slimy Rhode Island secret has surfaced: Rhode Island is the East Coast capital of squid.”
It may be a secret that squid landings in Rhode Island accounts for about 50 percent of all squid taken along the eastern seaboard. But from here to Seattle and lots of places in between, it’s no secret that Rhode Island squid turned into calamari is a restaurant favorite.
The prominence of Rhode Island’s squid fishing industry – bringing in about 23.5 million pounds per year – and its importance to the state’s economy, with annual landings worth about $18.5 million per year, are worth noting and recognizing, say Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 29, Warwick, Cranston).
But if it weren’t for the fact that Rhode Island has its own well-known and often copied style of preparing the dish, squid is, after all, just another one of the 300 or so cephalopods found in the planet’s seas and oceans.
“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,” said Senator Sosnowski.
She and Representative McNamara today introduced legislation in their respective chambers to dub “Rhode Island-style calamari” as the state’s official appetizer.
“As a South County legislator and chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, I recognize how fortunate our state is because of the fishing industry and believe we cannot do enough to promote that important aspect of our state’s economy,” Senator Sosnowski added.
Representative 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,” said Representative McNamara, “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.”
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.
Representative 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,” said Senator Sosnowski, “an opinion I share with countless restaurants, cookbook authors and TV food shows.”
The Senate bill, 2014-S 2398, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans' Affairs.
The House bill, 2014-H 7446, has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.
For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903