A disgusting food urban legend is born. Imitation calamari shows us how these rumors spread.
Is imitation calamari made from pig rectum? A charming urban legend gets its start.
Where did the legend of the backdoor calamari come from, and why has it only just emerged? The story started in the classic way, with an email from a stranger. Calhoun heard it from a fan of This American Life who wrote in to say that she had heard it from a guy who worked in pork production. When Calhoun followed up, the farmer told him that he’d learned about faux mollusk from a guy he knows who manages a meat-processing plant. That manager, for his part, told Calhoun that he was 95 percent sure the claim was true, though he admitted that he’d never seen the fakes himself—he only knew of them from the people that he worked for at the plant. And while no one at the plant had ever seen a rectum packaged as a squid, employees there confirmed that they had heard the story, too.
There were no eyewitnesses at all, in fact, and all the other evidence was circumstantial: A recent activist report found signs of modest seafood fraud—one kind of fish mislabeled as another—and a taste test showed that switching rectums for calamari might indeed go undetected.
First, it must be transmitted at each step through “a friend of a friend.” That’s how I came to this topic, after all: I heard about the bung from a friend, who got it from This American Life. The piece reveals that Calhoun heard it from a listener, who got it from a farmer. The farmer heard it from a meat processor, who got it from his bosses. And so on.
A charming myth? Eww. Not at all. Food myths are so common. Snopes has a whole section on it. But you can see how this thing gets started. It sound so outrageous, true or not, that you can’t help but tell everyone you know. So even it you don’t believe it, it still plants that kernel of doubt in people’s minds. We often see the case of urban legends justifiably spread because of the “just to be safe” ploy. You never know. It might be true. That’s not a good way to go through life, assuming that you should avoid everything if there is a potential that things can be off. You freak yourself out over ridiculous things.