Welcome to a special segment of wollstoneCRAFT, dedicated to my experiences on Canada’s Vancouver Island, a trip to see exactly where my boyfriend comes from.
While here I am using the term “craft” quite loosely, the ocean-side activities that I had the opportunity to try out on my vacation all involve some hard work, a bit of experience, and would probably be easier if left to the commercial industries that monopolize them now; it just wouldn’t be as satisfying. I’d say this stuff most definitely falls under the category of DIY.
Pickin’, shuckin’ and slurpin’
Oyster picking was tough at first for my Eastern, untrained eye. They pretty much all looked like rocks to me. But then you start noticing that, in fact, that white, barnacle-covered bump you just stepped on is a delicacy, and if it is just smaller than the size of your fist you are probably going to want to eat it at dinner tonight. They are a stubborn mollusk, and the best way to separate them from their low-tide perches is to make like an otter and smash them off with another rock. You’re done pickin’ oysters when your sack is too heavy for comfort, and then it’s back to the beached boat.
Shucking, the act of actually getting the gourmet part out of its calcified fortress of a shell, is difficult at first but amazingly satisfying once you get going. Shucking instruments are more like files than knives, used to dig into crevices of the shell’s join. You know you’ve made it when you start getting oyster-juice all over your gloves. Twist your shucker and the mollusk’s home pops open quite easily. Once you pop, you can’t stop.
I took the plunge and tried slurping a raw oyster straight from its shell. It tasted like shellfish and ocean and salt, but nothing so impressive as what I’d heard. Adding lemon juice, Tabasco or vodka made them much more delicious… as did frying them, and poaching them, and all the other methods of enjoying that we had for dinner. YUM.
Other oceanic endeavors…
The surprise of seeing how many prawns have landed in your traps was a staple at the end of each fishing trip. Two meals over the course of two days involving prawns seemed to me like a pretty good haul.
The important lesson I learned about clam-digging, over my trip, was that the time is probably nigh and the tide will not wait for you to eat lunch. We dug up six healthy clams from the rocky beach, just waiting to make it into a chowder. As the waves started hitting our ankles, and the hole we were digging filled up more and more with water, we figured we’d let those guys get a chance at life. The chowder will have to wait till the next trip.
I also tried to dry this starfish for my cousin. I left it in the sun for a few days but it just got brittle and smelly. I chucked it back into the sea.
Less oceanic, but possibly the most delicious, were the blackberry bushes that grew like weeds all over this part of the Island. If you brave their thorns, the berries were perfectly ripe at this time of year and we picked and ate plenty. I also enjoyed blackberry pie and tarts throughout my trip thanks to some very talented bakers.
Next post will be dedicated to the noble salmon and some pretty awesome sweaters. Tune in for part 2!