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What is a Cuttlefish?

My wife and I returned from our two week trip to Italy not too long ago. We had an amazing time. We visited Rome, Tuscany, Florence and Venice. The art was stunning, as I stood in awe before a Michelangelo sculpture and asked myself how he could create such life and movement out of marble. The views from the Tuscan hill towns of the vineyards and rolling hills were amazing. And then there was the food. The freshest mozzarella, perfectly ripe, red tomatoes, and gelato in every flavor including grapefruit, pistachio and stracciatella (chocolate chip). And then there was the cuttlefish.

One evening in Venice, I felt like a change of pace from pasta and I wanted fish. I saw an item on the menu listed as cuttlefish. So I said to the waitress, whose English was not very good: “What is cuttlefish?” She said: “It’s cuttlefish.” And I said: “What is cuttlefish?” And she said: “It’s just cuttlefish.” Not getting anywhere, I decided to be adventurous and I went ahead and ordered it. A few minutes later a plate arrived with many black pieces of squid on it.

Now this was a big problem because I follow the Jewish dietary rule which prohibits eating shellfish of any kind. I tried to explain to the waitress that I am Jewish and do not eat shellfish. She had no idea what I was talking about. So I sent it back, ordered the sea bass, which was terrific, and I ended up paying for two meals.

What did I learn from my culinary adventure in Venice? I realized that not everything labeled as a fish has fins and scales. But I also learned another lesson about mishaps and mistakes. When I think back on our Italy trip, I will remember the times when everything went well. But I will also think of my cuttlefish story and others stories that I do not have time to share, like how we got lost in Tuscany and almost had to sleep in the car.

I suspect that we all have these kind of travel stories. Times when we reserved the dirtiest hotel room ever that looked great on the internet. Or when the rental car broke down in the middle of nowhere. At the time, we might say to ourselves: This is terrible, what a disaster. But then something funny happens. We get back from the trip. We look at each other and we smile and laugh about the problem. And we tell the story for years to come.

So I asked myself: Why is it that the best travel stories are not about the perfect view or the amazing piece of art, but the time when you