Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy as a clam.

We are staying in the roundhouse in Cedar Key. It looks like a yurt, but is a real house inside. It doesn't have four corners, it has sixteen. A little odd, which fits us well.
Chrissy is staying with us for a couple of days. Chris K. became Beth's very close buddy on the first day of first grade. (Vicky, who adds occasional comments to this blog, is Chris' daughter.)
The three of us bounced around downtown Cedar Key last night. We went to all of the hotspots, or at least every spot that was open on Wednesday night. We had a drink at the old hotel, which features a very old painting of Neptune with mermaids and merboys behind the bar. There are two very large bullet holes in the painting from some disgruntled patron of the past. I guess some people are not afraid to criticize art when it is warranted.
We traveled on to a restaurant out on the water. We had jambalaya, clams, and potato skins. The jambalaya was made with ALL local seafood and the clams were something we HAD to order because they were touted as “our own” clams, just like other restaurants might tout their homemade pies. You see “Cedar Key is the #1 producer of farm raised clams in the USA”.
The clams were small cherrystones, which are the clean looking round ones with thick shells. Very small and very tender.
We asked the waitress if these were a typical size for “farm raised clams” and she said that these were 18 month clams. They can get a little bigger, but these are typically what they ship everywhere. Of course, we had to ask her about the process.
Background: A few months ago, Nook took us to see the oyster beds up past Seattle which were large square grids floating in a bay. Under the grids were strings that hung straight down that had all the oysters attached. Well clams are different. You would think that the mangled up shells of oysters would be created in a rough location and the smooth shells of cherrystones would be from some clean undisturbed surface, but it is the opposite. “Farm raised clams” grow in the sand and mud just like the regular “wild” New England clams. The difference is that they grow inside a bag so they can be harvested in one easy swoop because clams like to use their foot to move around, because after all, that IS what a foot is for. The mud is always blacker on the other side of the rock they always say..., which makes harvesting of free-range clams a rather difficult job.
They start with the little seedlings in a fine mesh bag and they stake it out in the water. After a month or two they are pulled in and switched to a larger “growing bag” with larger mesh that allows larger food to wash through. Clams are filter feeders so they need a constant supply of food particles to wash by them so they don't get grouchy. Just imagine what the ocean would sound like if all the clam's stomachs were growling, and then the sponges would get irritated by the constant noise and would contract and stop absorbing all that water and the oceans would overflow... or maybe not.
Anyhow, the larger clam bags are staked out for 12 to 18 months where they grow into the happy clams that these were until an hour ago. I asked about starfish and whelks, and she said that there they sometimes find large holes torn through the bags (the starfish's version of a bagged lunch I suppose).
They ship these clams all around the world for all kinds of stuff. A nice business that seems much easier and more predictable than the pitchfork and calf-high mud technique of clamdigging that I am familiar with. Now don't go running off to collect onion bags and clam seedlings to strike it rich. Nobody around here seems to be particularly wealthy.
We walked down the cat-strewn street to the bar. Tonight was the big night of semi-finals for the state karaoke championship. We were too late to hear the contestants, but we were there for the big awards ceremony. Afterwards we danced in the corner. Our clique had expanded with the addition of a local named Lolita, a well dressed. pretty mannequin that didn't dance and never spoke, but enjoyed watching us dance and dance. When the town closed we walked around the loop looking for more kittys and then we drove home.
All in all, a very nice downtown.
Things don't seem to move quickly, in fact, everything seems to move at a clam's pace around here. I think this town will be a good place to catch our breath and review the last six months.

The scene fades to a picture of one of their rickety docks, while Nancy Sinatra sings: “This foot is made for pushing, and that's just what it'll do, one of the these days this foot will push away from you....”

Vicky said...
Ok, I couldn't not comment. I love the clam story. Warren, you always have known how to make me laugh. I hope you guys have a great visit with mom. It sounds like you are having lots of fun. And Warren, I want a copy of the picture of the girls crossing the street on the cell phones.Luv you all, Vicky
October 25, 2007 3:40 PM
OK Vicky. here's the picture.

Chris K talking to Vicky while Beth talks to Cris G while crossing the busy street in downtown Cedar key.


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