Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clam Pets

I got this job. A gig, really, for a few days, digging clams up in Shelton. Since they can't look out on the herd of clams in the pasture, the farm, Little Skookum Shellfish, does a yearly survey to keep track of the population of their livelihood. They hired me and a few other students to squat in the muck and dig, wash, identify and measure the manillas in and amongst the mussels and native Littlenecks. It was a really fun job. Totally disgusting, I was covered in sea compost and reeked like low tide. But I also felt this ancient satisfaction, like, this is what my ancestors were probably doing instead of browsing at the co-op for dinner. It made me want to go and squat by a fire and reap the rewards of all the digging.

Little Skookum allowed us to take whatever oysters we wanted from the shore, since they were mostly growing manilla clams. What a treat! I picked a few mid-sized ones and about fifteen small ones. They were Pacifics, and it's not like June known for oyster season, but they were surprisingly sweet and tangy, not too creamy and dull like some I've had recently. Some of the oysters on the beach were as big as Reggie. Ok, not really, but they were at least a foot long. I asked one of the foremen what they do with these big boys, and he said at that point they are really more like pets.

I brought the oysters to a BBQ potluck and ate the small ones raw, grilling the bigger ones till they reluctantly opened.

The farmers also brought up two twenty five pound bags of manilla clams and told us to take as much as we wanted...just what the shore-dwelling cavewoman in me wanted. I bartered half of them away to a friend for helping me move a mattress. Isn't there a slang term for money, something about clam shells?

Then I got the flu and Jean made me miso soup with the clams. He showed me this trick of putting them in a bowl of salt water to make "stick out their tongues". They extend their "feet" and spit out the sand they sucked up into their shells--he said the way they walk is by sucking in sand and water and then shooting it out, propelling themselves through the muck. This didn't work that well, they seemed like fairly sensitive creatures. Every time the bowl got bumped, they'd retreat. The miso was wonderful, duh, and strengthened me with nutritious sea vitamins and the secret ingredient (love). It was with the miso his mom made (it took a year to ferment), wakame, clams and green onions. No dashi, though, just water for broth, because bonito flake broth would be "too much"; too salty and too fishy.

Now, I have about twenty clams left. I tried to make them last night, but they wouldn't stick their tongues out, and I thought they were dead. I left them in the water, and at some point they got covered with a placemat. This afternoon I rediscovered them, and they all had their tongues out! Maybe they like it dark? They're still alive and filtering the water in and out, but I don't know if they are safe to eat anymore. They were not cold all night and they're kind of old. But...still alive? I don't know. Maybe I will keep them as pets.

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