Sep 8, 2008

Of Kinas and Urchins

You're looking at a Kina, which is the Maori term for a sea urchin. More specifically, this is a New Zealand Sea Urchin. Sea urchins, like many of their fellow Echinoderms (think sea cucumbers and sea stars), have fivefold symmetry (aka pentamerism). Just look at the shell of one, and you'll see it. But why are they called sea urchins? All aboard the Etymology Express...

The word urchin comes from the Old English word for hedgehog, urcheon. So, when you see a sea urchin, don't think of a marine version of a beggar child. Think of how appropriate the name actually is: sea hedgehog.

Also, please don't think of aphrodisiacs when you see a sea urchin. My cousin used to dive for them up in British Columbia, and he could earn $1,000 USD a day when they were in season. Who were his buyers? Almost exclusively Japanese men who hoped they could increase their potency with the ladies. To all my Japanese brothers: do you want to know what a true aphrodisiac is? It's taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, and getting up with the kids when they start crying in the middle of the night--and doing it all with a smiling face.

Thanks for the photo, Hannah.

6 comments:

Flartus said...

It doesn't look so bad...until you realize there's what looks like a small, detachable spider on top, prepared to launch itself. Now it looks like a booby-trapped bagel.

Joanne Casey said...

mmmm donut :-P

niner said...

It looks fluffy. Sea urchins are cool.

Selina said...

Apparently these things are a real delicacy of the 'acquired taste' variety, I've never tried one but have heard from people who have that it's an unforgettable taste one way or another!

Also, small quibble - it's 'Maori', although your spelling was phonetically correct!

Raging Wombat said...

Thanks, Selina. I just fixed it.

Anonymous said...

The book "Are You Really Going to Eat That" (a sort of culinary Ugly Overload) says that the flavour of sea urchin is not unlike iodine sorbet. I find I concur.