Saturday, November 24

Beckoned by Bivalves


I don't know if it's just the NY Times, or if everyone's doing it, but I've been noticing a number of alliterative headlines lately. And you can tell they're deliberate, because they're repeated on the inside page, the "Story continues on" page. There was a super duper one a couple of months ago in the theatre section: No Wonder He's Crunchy, He's Covered With Condiments." I like that. And I especially like "Beckoned By Bivalves," the header for a story about life on Prince Edward Island, a northernfFantasy if there ever was one.
As the url of this blog suggests, I grew up in the company of bivalves, so they have been beckoning to me all my life, along with the bear in "Snow White and Rose Red," Reddy kilowatt, and Winnie the Pooh, up in his forest. I don't think bivalves presented as food would be very tempting to someone not raised near salty tidal flats: they're slippery looking, with odd translucent yellow and grey parts, and an ominous dark stomach. Not food for the squeamish. You don't hare to travel like Anthony Bourdain to find squeamly food: just go to our Pilgrim shores. But to one raised on them, there is nothing more succulent than a cold, briny, littleneck on the half shell, unless it's an oyster, similarly served. With a touch of lemon and maybe a dash of cocktail sauce, but slid down from the shell with the salty liquid, it's food for the gods.
i consider bivalves among my earliest friends also because my first assigned research paper was a report on the quahog (the round bivalve of Rhode Island and nearby waters). Mr. Curran gave us the assignment (because, as he said, he'd once had to write an article on the quahog and it was darned hard, or interesting, or something. So we paired up, Valerie Cameron and I, and set out on the town. To the Providence Public Library and our first experiences in the dizzying world of microfilm and primary sources. We read old newspaper accounts and saw old photos of East Providence in its heyday of steamer rides up and down the bay and clambakes at the Squantum Club for the posh set and shore dinners at Crescent Park for the rest of us.
We rode our reporters' bikes down to Blount Seafood, on the waterfront street in Bristol, a place still operating and still housed in a green painted building with a large yard covered with crushed clam shells. We were received like the true reporters we were (barely out of our Nancy Drew days) and, seated in a large office with large brown chairs, we were told the story of commercial quahog harvesting.
And back in those dark days before anyone in the schools spoke about Native Americans except the obligatory paper hats and paper feather cutting and Thanksgiving stories, we learned that the Indians' form of cyurrency, , was made from the insides of the quahog shells. White beads were smaller units, as most of the inner shell was white; the violet was less plentiful and so provided t higher denomination beads. Before Mr. Rogers and Schoolhouse Rock, we at least learned a sold bit of American history and anthropology.
I'm sorry the paper we wrote has disappeared. I think it was 9 or 14 pages, handwritten, in all. It's disappeared, and I live farther from the salt-water mollusks and bivalves, but they always beckon.

Sad footnote: My third child just visited a mecca of the bivalve, Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Coast, but he doesn't like any kind of "seafood." I'm very glad he went but wished he could have capped off the trip with the ultimate bivalve experience.

3 comments:

caleb said...

Oh, no thank you! Won't have those slippery things sliding down my throat any time soon! But I do like the blue hand reaching up from the deck in the picture....

JLH said...

Ooo, cool! I hadn't noticed the hand! The picture is really really big when you "view" it -- I'm thankful that Google resizes my pics....

bri said...

I so enjoyed this school memory!

(I just bought my stepmother a book for Christmas, called After the Bell: Contemporary American Prose About School. Now I want to write MY piece about school...)