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Friday, 19 June 2015

The mussel epiphany

We were more impulsive when we lived in Kingston-upon-Thames, 12 miles SW of London.

One working weekday near Christmas we took time off and had lunch in Boulogne. Just over 100 miles but there was a snag: a blessing in 1939 - 45, less so later as Eurotunnel continued to remain a mirage. Crossing the Channel then required a 90-minute ferry ride with a further 40 minutes devoted to embarcation/disembarcation if you took your car.

But it was doable and we did it. And the event changed our lives. Younger daughter Occasional Speeder was going at a panful of mussels in a messy way. La Patronne stepped in, picked up the twin halves of a used shell (still flexibly attached to each other), and showed how, as tweezers, they could pick out the innards of a mussel yet to be consumed.

The hands in the pic are those of Ysabelle, OS's daughter, to whom this skill has been passed down.

These days Eurotunnel cuts down the crossing to about 30 minutes but Hereford to the Languedoc is nearly 900 miles and there's hard driving to be done over two days. To sustain concentration the co-passenger (who also works the satnav), unwraps sweets and feeds them into the driver's mouth in a steady stream. By now there's a consensus about which sweet works best. Chocolates and toffees are no good, they're gone in a flash. Jelly babies similarly. Werthers (a sort of hard toffee) are too frangible, quickly splintering into easily dissolved pieces. Best are hard transparent fruit drops, sort of doughnut shaped. They last and last.

10 comments:

Ellena said...

Tweezer-style is the only way I know to eat them. Here the large mounds of oysters are served in wide deep plates. Lots of space to manipulate the contents. $20. gets you 'all you can eat'. I pig out on three servings each in a different sauce.

PS "Hop" comment last post referred to photo showing one-legged RR.

Sir Hugh said...

But how do you get the first ones out so you end up with the tool?

Ellena said...

The large mounds always contain empty shells and the fallen out oysters are found swimming at the bottom of the plate.

Roderick Robinson said...

Ellena: Oysters at $20 all you can eat! In the UK it would probably be $100. Here I'd recommend you stick to fish and chips - still our greatest culinary bargain.

Actually I'd unscrewed my right leg and lent it to my granddaughter.

Sir Hugh: Temporary tweezers fashioned out of well-seasoned granite.

Ellena: There were a thousand answers I could have supplied to Sir Hugh (my brother). Yours is sensible, mine more romantic.

Lucy said...

Remember Travel Sweets (Smith Kendall/Kendon I think)? All covered in powdered glucose or something so the sweet deliverer's hands became a sticky mess fit only to attract wasps by the end of the trip. The little tins were nice though.

Sir Hugh said...

Jakemans Throat and Chest (menthol). Sounds medicinal, but very ok as a sucking sweetie. Pete and I have them when we are walking.

fedorovna said...

Wine gums and fruit pastilles.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: There was a vogue for launching products with hyphenated names that were supposed to evoke Edwardian times (ie, when the chauffeur, or driver, could bring the phaeton to a halt outside a country tavern and where the ladies could be escorted to some unmentionable room in order to wash their hands). Autre temps and the moeurs didn't work so well.

And here's a woman/man thing: you remember the tins as pleasantly decorative which they were, I a resident in another camp recall lids which were an absolute bastard to get off. But this is only a difference between us in the sense that Yin and Yan are. The greatest compliment you could pay me is to admit we are complementary.

Sir Hugh: The overriding requirement for us is duration. Otherwise the driver gets ashamed of asking for another sweetie too frequently.

Fed: Wine gums (the virtually tasteless sort) last almost as long as pencil erasers; pastilles no more than a minute.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: There was a vogue for launching products with hyphenated names that were supposed to evoke Edwardian times (ie, when the chauffeur, or driver, could bring the phaeton to a halt outside a country tavern and where the ladies could be escorted to some unmentionable room in order to wash their hands). Autre temps and the moeurs didn't work so well.

And here's a woman/man thing: you remember the tins as pleasantly decorative which they were, I a resident in another camp recall lids which were an absolute bastard to get off. But this is only a difference between us in the sense that Yin and Yan are. The greatest compliment you could pay me is to admit we are complementary.

Sir Hugh: The overriding requirement for us is duration. Otherwise the driver gets ashamed of asking for another sweetie too frequently.

Fed: Wine gums (the virtually tasteless sort) last almost as long as pencil erasers; pastilles no more than a minute.

Sir Hugh said...

Pete and I have a competition to see who make them last longest.