The Mussel

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I found these on Grenaway Beach, in Cornwall. They’re two halves of the same mussel. Worn, battle scarred, but lovingly built by a brave beastie that lived to quite an age, judging by its size and thickness.

The life that attaches itself to a mollusc is spattered and colourful, valiantly worn like some Pollock fashion statement. The algae bloom of different hues and textures, the grid of teeny eggs, laid by a limpet that thought this particular shell was a safe ride. There are holes bored into these shells… driven through by opportunistic whelks, hellbent on a free snack.

And then there’s the inside… the smooth, pearlescent cocoon, perfectly cupped to hold and protect the soft delicate body of the mussel. A little armoured haven.

They are quite beautiful.

I always gather at least one mussel shell, absent mindedly slipping it into a pocket of my coat, perfect for an idle hand to trace the slow graceful butter-knife-sharp curve, rough grey ribbing to smooth petrol blues. The thumb, on it’s blind journey, unfailingly catches on a tiny outcrop of micro barnacles and I find it circling and returning to this little world. Then I inevitably flip it to prone side up, presenting a sensuous thumb slide, from the palatial line and up to the hook of the umbo. I think I could draw these shells with my eyes closed. At least in my head and my heart.

On reaching home these treasures are usually washed, and dried on a tray in the bottom of the Aga. Then they’re stored in kilner jars to be admired and dipped into, when needed. When I flick the lever on these jars, I can just about sense the scent of the beach and sea spray.

I miss the sea, a lot.

But a bowl of these, cooked, and a decent tear of bread to soak up the juices would definitely go some way to salve this ache.

 

p.s. In case you’re interested….

Once finished, these mussels will be for sale on Friday 29th April 1 pm. Do shout if interested. There will be one other, and then no more, until there’s an R in the month…

 


An oink around the corner...

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“You’ve got pigs? Really? How brilliant is that?!”
We walk around the corner of the house…

“Oh wow… they’re adorable. Look how they roll in the straw. Oh they’re looking at me! Those ears… their noses! Oh my goodness! They’re beyond cute!”

Then…

“Can I feed them? They like apples? Haha, oh they LOVE apples. Look it’s gone! Oh they’re gorgeous.”

Then, finally…

“No! You can’t eat them. How can you? They’re so lovely. They’re as intelligent as dogs you know. Did you know that? Surely you’ll not be able to do ‘it’?”

It’s undeniable: they’re very endearing. And now, after two weeks of settling in to their new home, getting to know the rhythm of their day, their meals times, our comings and goings, they have definitely nosed their way into at least a corner of our hearts. For our middle child I suspect that they have taken up residence at the very centre.

But the truth is this: We like bacon… and ham, sausages, shoulder, neck… For me, and many I suspect, say the word ‘bacon’ and my taste buds get lost in a state of reverie! (Though there have been occasions when we haven’t sourced sensibly, perhaps the pig hasn’t lived the best of lives, and there’s no doubt the meat will always be a mirror for this.)

But over the years a deep seated nagging has taken hold of my sensibilities. If we’re happy to eat pork, then we should be prepared to take some responsibility for it’s provenance. The idea was simple. We’ve got a bit of land: we should ‘grow’ our own. In doing so we’ll have a more realistic understanding of the process… from field to fork… and all the bits in between.

The aim is to give them the most contented lives possible as they grow. And when the time comes, I’ll go with them to slaughter. I’ll learn how to butcher them. We’ll make our own sausages, ham, and bacon if possible. And if, during this journey, we become too attached, too squeamish, and indeed don’t fancy eating pork ever again, then this will be an educated response. Not an automatic ‘make mine a full English’ reaction. We’ve all ‘signed up’ for this in our family, and I’m pretty certain it’s going to be an unforgettable education.

I’ll keep you posted.

In fact it’s likely the next essay will be entitled: Running (wild and unplanned) With Pigs