Digging for treasure

I am equally delighted and dismayed by yesterday’s unintentional discovery.

I had a rare half a day off yesterday. Had an awesome shoot in the morning followed by what was meant to be mommy and gia day. Then we got a letter in the post to advise of Max’s last developmental health check with the PHN for that very same afternoon! (Eeek! Where did the time go? But that’s a story for another day) So I got to hang out with my kids anyway.

Their cousins are over from England so we headed out to see if they were home to say hello but they weren’t there so we headed for the beach.

After a showery afternoon, it was a gorgeous evening. Warm and sunny with a cool breeze. It was low tide, the beach felt eerily deserted after the weeks of local crowds descending on it with the good weather. I had emptied the beach gear out of the car just that morning to put in my photo props so we didn’t have a single bucket or spade.

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But we weren’t stopping long, just a quick walk before we headed back to see if the cousins were home.

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We foraged for unusual shells to make a beach collage which kept them occupied for a bit.

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Then Gia headed off on her adventure while max was extremely whiney about the green sand. The tide was so far out and the sand had mossy pockets which he thoroughly disapproved of! He kept demanding I pick him up and walked on his tippy toes the whole time cos he didn’t like the dirty sand. He was driving us bananas so we headed back and I noticed a man with a bucket and I was instantly intrigued. What is he doing? What is he collecting? Can I eat it?

I crept closer and started to eavesdrop when I spied a bucket full of seaweed. He told the lady who stopped to chat to him that we was collecting it for his wife for a foot bath, there was chat about healing properties but I half tuned out and max was still whining, until he bent down, plucked something out of the sand and then ate it.

Oooh!! This was more like it. I asked him what he was eating and he said cockles! As if I should have known. Then he bent over again, found another one, opened it up and offered it to me.

And now you’re probably thinking, wtf? I read all this for cockles?

But I seriously cannot explain how amazing this was to me. He may as well have offered me ambrosia. This little raw morsel of bivalve was like gold. It was briny, like the sea. It was sweet and fresh and it evoked memories of my childhood and my dad. I wish I was as eloquent as Anthony Bourdain when he recounted his experience of the first time he ate an oyster. It was that kind of revelation. Joy, closely followed by utter dismay that I’d been coming to this beach for the last 13 years and was unaware of the treasure that lay just beneath my feet.

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Sure, I’ve eaten cockles before, but they came out of a jar. This was digging your fingers into the sand to comb through it to grasp these little molluscs to eat. Raw, on the beach, with the smell of sand and sunshine around you.

It brought me back to summers with my dad when he would bring home bushels of “butil” (a smaller, similar clam like food- I don’t know it’s real name) from cavite and we would sit outside eating it, just the two of because nobody else could be bothered cos it was so tiny and tedious. In fairness, most shellfish have very little ROI when you factor in how hard it is to pick it out of their shells, etc. But it was like “our” thing.

I promptly abandoned my kids on the shore while I had a forage for myself. He taught me how to open them, like turning a key. And my excitement must have been evident cos his wife made her way down to us to see what all the commotion was about. I was that thrilled that both my kids were enticed to try it. My kids! Gabriella with her clean fetish ate something that came out of the ground without disinfecting it to within an inch of its life.

My new friend told me not to tell all and sundry where it was lest the hordes descend on our wee beach but any local will know exactly where this is. I wish someone had shared it with me years ago!

I could wax eloquent for pages yet but this was truly a memorable day 🙂

So much so that I went back today, sans children, with a bucket and spade to dig out my dinner.

The beach was blessedly deserted, I didn’t fancy scaring anyone away with my enthusiasm if they made the mistake of asking me what I was doing.

I had a million things on my to do list today, but the hour I took for myself to dig around in the sand was nothing short of therapeutic. Plus, I got dinner to boot 🙂

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Again, the return on investment isn’t that great, but it made it all the sweeter. This is how cavemen must have felt. I get food. I feed family.

But, in this case, I kind of forgot to share 🙂

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I googled loads of recipes to try but in the end, I ate them standing up over the counter, fresh out of the steamer, no condiments, juice running down my arms. Heaven in a bowl.

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Posted on July 30, 2013, in food, musings, parenting, Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Good on Gia! Did Max like them?

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