Foraging Food For Thought

Perfectly sunny, calm, dry weather and an especially super low tide happened simultaneously today. And it was at the ideal time– midday.

Because of this, Johnny and I went to the shore with hopes high for gathering razor clams (or scana mara, as they’re known in Irish) for this evenings supper and, fingers crossed, a little extra to put in the freezer.

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There are so many moments to cherish in a day like today. Whether breathing in the cracking fresh winter air or inhaling the aroma of garlic butter wafting from our freshly foraged supper. And the pure bliss of quiet time, both alone and with Johnny, on the beach!

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My intention when sitting down to write this was to wax on about how we humans find a joy that affects all the senses in the simplest of things, things that leave one full up with contentment that’s not purely motivated by a desire for material benefit. Something that fills one up physically, emotionally and spiritually whether or not there’s anything of matter to behold afterwards. Like how I feel after a visit to the shore on a day like today even when we return with buckets empty which happens more often than not. The pleasure comes from just being there and doing that, with and without whoever else is also there.

But now I have this niggly feeling which I’d like to say I’ve not had before except there’s a tinge of memory suggesting that might not be true. Two years ago my daughter and I decided not to eat meat and we were content with our choice to not consume chemical laden, poorly treated animals. As a family, we decided to no longer eat our own well cared for poultry and goats but we decided locally sourced seafood would be an exception. Clamming and fishing have always felt like myself at home with nature but now I’m questioning whether I might instead be trying to conquer nature.

We won’t waste our harvest nor will I deny myself the pleasure of the day’s delicious memories even with this moral dilemma unassumingly seeking my attention. For now, I’ll sleep on it.

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If you’re partial to shellfish and feel tempted to track down and sample razor clams then prepare to rejoice because they’re smooth and flavour-filled when properly prepared, disappointingly hard and rubbery when overcooked. They can be used as chowder ingredients and are excellent sauteed, baked or fried.

To prepare, rinse well to clean then immerse them in boiling water until the shells are detached–takes less than a minute. Immediately rinse with cold water or plunge into an ice bath to stop them cooking further. At this point, they’re not quite cooked through– ideally still a little translucent. Next, separate the clams from the shells then individually remove and dispose of the guts.  If needed, rinse again. They can now be patted dry then bagged and frozen or they can be prepped to suit immediate use.

36 Comments

  1. E. Lisa Daly says:

    Would you not view the clams as a bounty from nature versus booty (if you will allow) wrestled from nature? I support your decision to avoid chemical leaden meat products. I wonder if you are painting yourself into a corner by not allowing yourself to partake of unblemished bounty. The chickens were raised and live to serve the family’s need, shouldn’t their deaths serve again?
    I do not envy your this quandary.
    Lisa x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa, I think I’ve always viewed all the shellfish we get ourselves as treasure. Please forgive me for being graphic or for sounding dramatic, but more recently as I ready to cook them I can hear their gasps for life and it has affected me (they must be cooked while alive). I don’t want to feel this way of course and it isn’t weighing heavily on me really. Wasn’t even going to mention it but as I was writing I realized I ought to be completely honest about the experience I was describing.
      And as regards our poultry and goats, Johnny really didn’t like killing them, especially the goats that jump up and greet him when he goes to milk their mother. He never declared he was done, it has just happened and everyone is fine with it. So we have no milk because of not breeding them but still enough eggs to meet the families needs.
      I’m not sure where these new thoughts are leading to but I’m pretty certain it will be a gradual and natural development.
      Thanks for your caring response and I promise if you ever make it to our front door again, and I so hope you do, there will be plenty of delicious and local food to sample!
      Hugs, Melissa Xx

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  2. Laurie Graves says:

    A dilemma I share with you. There is no avoiding the fact that we must kill something to eat. Mammals, birds, seafood, fish, plants. All were alive before we ate them. My husband and I don’t eat pork, beef, or any other meat belonging to a mammal. We still eat chicken, seafood, and fish. As more information comes in, who knows what we will stop eating, but eat we must.

    Liked by 2 people

    • J > This is a quandry Denise and I have struggled with, and continue to from time to time. No matter what, we must either eat or die, and no matter what we eat there is an impact on the natural world. Veganism is all the rage, but in effect requires a limited area of the globe where grains seeds fruits and nuts grow well (and even there require disruption and displacement of natural ecosystems) to feed the rest of the world where these things don’t grow. In the Outer Hebrides (and yes, Melissa, Aran is very similar in geology, topography, climate, weather, language …) grass grows better than any other living thing. And seaweed. But neither are palatable – or even nutritious for humans. Are we to manufacture protein from mushrooms … made with ??? – and disconnecting us even more from our natural environment? The alternative is to accept that we have no moral right to occupy these places, because they cannot sustain us within the ethical boundaries we have set for ourselves. Depopulation. Very soon, we’ll all be living in cities and eating artifical foods – completely ignorant of where and how they are made, and at what cost to the natural world: in fact it seems a lot of folk are already in just such a condition! Denise and I have come to the conclusion that, as we have chosen to live here, or remain here, we should accept with humility what Nature provides us with, and adapt our expectations and tastes to reflect the character of the place. In the Outer Hebrides, that surely means eating meat and fish for protein.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have eaten seaweed and enjoyed it very much! – I believe it is nutritious and have been told by an expereinced Food Forager that all seaweed of the British Isles is edible if still living and gathered from the rocks rather than the bits that are washed up on the beach.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jonathan, There’s no denying that we must eat and that ever increasingly we humans are the planets worst enemy for it. Our food choices are shaped by many different factors–biological (hunger), physical (access, time, skill), economic (cost, availability), social (culture, family), psychological (mood), and of course our attitudes (knowledge, beliefs) about food– all self-serving. You’ve made me aware that I could give more consideration to how my food choices directly affect the Earth’s habitable lifespan– or at least equal the thought I give to how my choices affect my own longevity. Could you recommend a trustworthy source that’s devoted to such topics as you wrote about in above comment?
        I too find the mycoprotein a bit of a ??? but I adore seaweed!
        Thanks for adding great insight to the conversation. Cheers, Melissa

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    • Hiya Laurie, Thank goodness for so much variety when it comes to us humans sustaining ourselves gastronomically and also for the ability to modify our choices as our personal taste and personal thinking changes. Thanks for sharing your own views/eating habits here…the first time I’ve heard of someone strictly not eating mammals, but, voila, googled and it is not so uncommon. I appreciate this new awareness–more food for thought!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…”

    ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Shirley says:

    Fascinating to read. I don’t know what you will decide but I think Hugh Fearnley Whittinstall has gone harvesting at the coast like this in Dorset and his view so I understand is you respect the harvest and enjoy.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really enjoy Hugh’s books and television shows. He did a stint of vegetarianism and also has some great work on foraging from the sea and shore. Very informative and a great entertainer. I like how he thinks and his responsible way of doing what he does. Thanks for mentioning him…put a smile on my face it did!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sailimoo says:

    Hya. I think foraging is different from farming animals in large numbers and all the problems that brings. I am a meat eater so I am more at peace eating home-raised animals than industrially raised, knowing they were well cared for and organically fed. historically foraging was the first way humans fed themselves, before growing and farming. hope that helps, it would be a pity to give up such a great way to source your food and spend a lovely day! xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Singledust says:

    believe this or not , I was scrolling my posts looking for a certain one and i came across one of your comments and was thinking that I haven’t heard from you in so long and then hazah i read this in my reader! so lovely to read from you again! I so enjoyed reading about the path you have taken with your family, not always easy but to persevere gives such amazing rewards. Happy New Year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Singledust says:

        happy new year back to you and we are just a few days away to the lunar new year here . its always a joy to read one of your posts, I feel so connected to the land and to the simple good life when I do. you have such clarity and write about such interesting topics and new to me too. so lovely to read you!

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  7. Claudette says:

    I am not an advocate of any eating style, however, all things that are natural that we consume are alive at some stage. My opinion is that you should do what your conscience needs, but in reality your body needs food. As others have said, ethical organic farming, home grown farming and gathering are the best option for many. I hope you can find comfort, and nutrition, in your choices.
    It was good to read a post from you again. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Claudette, It’s unlikely that I will change my eating style because of this experience. Perhaps these thoughts were a reminder for me to express gratitude for these gifts from the sea and to never take it for granted. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Claudette says:

        I think we all do need reminders about gratitude. I have been trying to be more mindful about expressing it for the last year or so, and it has made a huge difference in how I feel.
        Hope you have a great one too.

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  8. BellyBytes says:

    I come from a culture that is predominantly vegetarian where some people don’t eat food that is grown underground like roots and tuners lest they kill/harm creatures living in the soil. However animal protein is superior to vegetable protein and malnourishment is common. Also this leads to an excessive use of carbohydrates which causes diabetes thanks to reduced exercise in urban life .
    These are the pitfalls of vegetarianism . But of course I respect your choice. We eat meat occasionally and are vegetarian for the most part and always eat a larger component of non vegetarian food at each meal even if we make meat.
    You’ve written after a long time! I missed your tales .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never heard of that food choice–not eating roots. Interesting…would those be vegan or vegetarian or neither or either or is there another name for it I wonder? I do very much enjoy seafood and will continue to eat what we harvest ourselves. Probably the feelings and thoughts I had were serving as a reminder for me to be gracious and grateful for the bounty. I might have been taking it for granted.

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  9. Mama Cormier says:

    So glad to see you back. I’ve missed your wonderful accounts of your family, your DIY projects and your recipes. I hope to see more of you in the coming weeks. I hope you’ve all been healthy and that life is treating you well. Welcome back! Carol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carol! You are so sweet! It is nice to be back and your welcome makes it feel extra special. The break did me good and I look forward to catching up with everyone in the next few weeks as I ease back into my office chair and become reacquainted with my keyboard. See you around blogland, Melissa 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I am so glad to hear from you and your Island life again Melissa. ❤
    I was brought up on a beef and dairy farm and our philosophy was that we treated the animals well and they gave us delicious food in return – a symbiotic relationship. Times have changed with the economics of farming meaning that in this area of UK (south) farms have to be bigger for the business to survive. I have struggled with these dilemnas all my adult life and spent a year as a vegetarian and 3 weeks as a vegan. It just did not feel right for me. Now I eat locally sourced, free range, organic meat if possible, I hardly ever eat processed foods, and I NEVER knowingly eat meat that does not come from the British Isles. I don't know how it would be if I had a young family to feed, the challenges would be greater for sure!
    Welcome back to blogland! we missed you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did vegan for about a month and it did not feel right for me either. I never intended to not eat meat altogether but we hadn’t any of our own in our freezer at the time and it was months before we did. By then I realized I didn’t miss meat at all. I do enjoy seafood very much and it’s unlikely that I will stop eating it. I’ve concluded that these thoughts were a needed reminder to not take for granted the lives that are sacrificed to sustain us. Happy weekend to you darling!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Paula Hendrickson says:

    Hi dear Melissa … came across this February post and was rereading all the thought-filled comments once more. And it’s Paddy’s Day today and that brought you and your family to mind also. Hope spring is finding you on Inis Mór and that the earth is starting to warm and stir. Be well. Know you are thought of often.

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  12. Roz Hill says:

    Hi Melissa, We have been over in Oz for a couple of months and now into a busy Glamping season back home, so the blogging is on a back burner. It lovely to see how you are all doing tho.
    I can understand your delema , Self sufficiency changed my feelings and it is difficult to know how far to go . We search out free range produce now . We could stock our ponds with fish and get more customers, but prefer to keep them as wildlife ponds. It was so difficult killing our animals so well done you for going veggie, you are an amazing cook anyway!!!
    Big hugs to you Johnny and the family. ( one day I hope we will meet, one way or another 😋

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