Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mussels in the Rain

Food Adventure #9- Harvesting Mussels
December 4, 2010

The Big 5 Sporting Goods staff did not welcome our 11-person group descending on their Daly City store to purchase one-day fishing licenses. We were sternly urged to "please stay in one line" and "leave the store once we'd finished our purchase" by a frazzled manager who was summonsed from the mysterious back by a frazzled-er cashier. Our Adventure leaders insisted on this pitstop, though, since one is from Alaska and knows the high price fishing without a license can run you, should we be ticketed.

Rain nor mud nor slippery rocks nor angry sporting goods store workers would keep us from our mussels. All told we spent nearly $150 on these licenses and one look at the bivalve-infested low tide exposed scenery made me, for one, grateful YET AGAIN that I live in the Bay Area where all food dreams can come true.

It's an understatement to tell you that I was moved - MOVED - by the gorgeous horror that is ripping the bivalve from her rocks. The twisting, the screwdriver, the prying; we were truly monsters and still I felt as if I were engaging in something ancient and inevitable. This was our human birthright, to forage and eat what we could find that does not kill us. We were connected to our ancestors, right?  I trolled around to three different huddles of Adventurers and shared my deep anthropological thoughts and was shot down by every member.

I moved on to share my insights with the sea and happened upon dozens of angelic starfish. But wait! Do you know that starfish are cold blooded KILLERS? Carnivorous beasts, their slow moves mask their endless appetite for the very mussels we were after. Never trust a thing that regenerates limbs.

Several hours and 6 buckets later, we had more pounds of mussels than we should admit. Off to Adventure Leader Sarah's beautiful Mission-district apartment to scrub, de-beard and steam these beautiful creatures!

Sarah FW had prepped two sauces: white wine/butter/garlic and a red wine/ tomato/ lemon for the gentle deaths. Also, a heaping mountain of two-color fettuccine, generous loaves of bread, and a wide wedge of brie.

The vaginal qualities of the mussel (and other shellfish, let's be honest) cannot be denied, especially with a backdrop of Sarah FW's dirty salt & pepper shakers! This one was from Grandma!

Mussels require endless scrubbing since so many baby mussels, infant anemones, fetal snails and sundry other sea life who do not deserve an early death travel on their mighty shells! Then they sit in fresh water for a good 20 minutes filtering sand before we struggled to de-beard about 3 dozen of them. By 9pm or so, hangry and slight drunk, we feasted!

Like most feasts, the prep time was a good 100x actual eating time. No matter. It was glorious and we each selected a favorite shell to make our official Food Adventure Club Adventure #9 badge for our official Food Adventure Club sashes.  The group selected E.O and Ali as co-leaders of the January Coca Cola feast adventure!

There is so much food to eat and life is so short!

* PHOTOS BY B. FOSBROOK except dinner table shot which is by E.O.S.

1 comment:

  1. you say prep time is "100x actual eating time".. don't bother scrubbing or debearding at home! this is a waste of time. scrub them a tiny bit to knock off extra animals with your hands or a tool at the rocks where you gather them and not again. wash them quickly at home and cook 'em up. i have been gathering and eating mussels every year since i was old enough to walk (about 40 years) and never once have scrubbed or debearded them at home... nor have i ever gotten a fishing license.