Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bay Scallops

As a youngster, many men were working the waters around our town.  Some were commercial fishermen. Some worked the bays for a living, gathering clams, scallops, fish in trap nets, and eels, all in due season.  There were many other men who fished the waters in their 'off' hours, working other types of employment.

One of these was my Uncle Ros.  He enjoyed going to Accabonac Creek, launching his small boat powered by a small engine.  In this way, he would drag a metal frame with a net on it, called a scallop dredge. It would drag along the bottom as the boat slowly made its way across the surface, scooping up the shellfish as it went. I was lucky enough to go 'on the water' with Uncle Ros and Aunt 'Nita a few times. I've always jumped at the chance to spend time on a boat, no matter what type it was.

After as many scallops were gathered as they could get,  we would return to shore. The bushel baskets full of heavy seafood would be loaded into the back of the pickup truck, and we'd drive home for the opening of them.  Mom was among those who would gather in a circle in the back yard of Grandma's house, where Uncle Ros and Aunt 'Nita lived. She and other friends would join together, each with a dull blade knife made for the purpose of  opening the stubborn scallops. The hand which held the shell would be wound with a thick layer of rags to pad against the roughness of the scallop. Without it, their hands would be cut or blistered.

I liked to watch as they opened the rigged shells, scooped out the salty, round, white fish, and placed them into buckets. Then they'd take the bucket inside and rinse the contents to remove any sand or sea weed bits. From there, the fish would be placed in pint or quart sized jars to be sold.  The worst part of the whole business for me was that yellow jackets would swarm around the circle of openers and anyone else who was nearby.  I didn't like bees of any kind!

That night, the openers would each sit down at their own tables with a 'mess' of bay scallops for their dinner. I wasn't enthused about eating them at that age, and since they came at a dear price, my mother usually had something else for the kids to eat, serving the scallops to my father, my grandfather and herself.  Somewhere between those days and these, my taste buds have changed. Last year, when we went 'home' for a visit, it happened to be early in the scallop season.  Though we paid a terrible price for them, we felt that after twenty or more years was long enough to wait for another meal of the morsels.  We treated ourselves and enjoyed ever bite!  It was worth every penny! 

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