Monday, June 28, 2010
Home from the beach without shells
We’ve just returned home after a long weekend away at the beach. After unpacking sandy clothes from bags straight into the washing machine, the next thing to do is decide what to cook for dinner. Something that doesn’t involve any fresh ingredients so I can put off visiting the supermarket until tomorrow. While staring into the pantry, I suddenly think about a recipe I read in my sister’s 1950s copy of Australian House and Garden magazine.
It’s for a ‘Devilled Seafood Special’. I’m not even sure what devilled seafood is but apparently it can ‘enliven a tired meal or leftovers’. What reminds me of this recipe today is the magazine’s suggestion of presenting the food in seashells: ‘The shells themselves can be found on beaches. Probably you may have some stored away...relics of other holidays when you’ve beach-combed.’
Well, we beach-combed and didn’t find any shells at all. Perhaps some tiny ones, but certainly none large enough to serve up a meal. And this was on a large and very deserted beach. My four-year-old was also insistent that no one touch the shells once we did see some as ‘you need to leave them for the hermit crabs or they won’t have a home’. He became quite distraught at the thought of little crabs searching all night long without a home to call their own.
This anxiety was thanks to a ‘travelling aquarium’ that came to his preschool a few months ago. The children were allowed to look at starfish, feel seaweed and see other marine life living in rock pools. They were also told to never collect shells on the beach, or if they had to, to only take one or two as otherwise there would soon be none left.
At the time I thought this sounded ridiculous. Yet another fun, outdoorsy, technology-free pastime of childhood was no longer ‘allowed’. I loved having a shell collection when I was younger; looking at them and remembering which beach I collected them from. What was the harm?
But, after this weekend, I wonder if maybe it was true. Are we running out of shells? Where have these dinner-plate size clam shells gone anyway?
So, here I am without shells — those ‘pretty assets to have on the kitchen shelves for serving all kinds of seafoods’ – but for tonight at least I have found a tin of tomatoes and a packet of penne.