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Free fishing day

Did you know that Sunday was free fishing day? I had never heard of such a thing, until Mark heard it on the news. You could fish and shellfish with no license for one day. Oh, baby! It was a nice low tide, at minus.93 around 3 o’clock pm.

As we headed out of the driveway with our shovels and buckets; jeans rolled up; gloves at the ready; Mark somehow mentioned that he had never dug clams before. Wait a minute, WHAT??? This man whom I have known for more than 20 years has NEVER been clamming? Why did I think he had? Even though I lived in Eastern Washington for the first 13 years of my life, I have been clamming zillions of times! Not with him? I would have SWORN we had! We have been crabbing and picked up oysters; hiked and camped and kayaked; discovered species of birds never before seen (by us); fished, foraged and frolicked in the woods, but never went clamming! Inconceivable! So this was even more fun than I thought!

The weather was lovely, warm but not too hot (I do hate the heat), mostly cloudy but they were high and bright and plenty of sun was coming through. We got to the WDFW beach out Highway 302, about 20 minutes from the house, and there were lots of cars. We got parked and hit the beach having only just purchased 2 new oyster knives on the way out there. There were lots of people on the beach: some with bonfires, some with chairs, and lots and lots of families. Good food really does bring people together.

Mark, ever the boy scout/former Marine, surveyed the area and watched people for a few minutes. I showed him some clam holes that turned out to be geoduck holes (we did not catch one and the tide was too high to see anyone else out there trying, but it would be so cool to see that!) then I got distracted by acres of oysters. I began shucking and he started digging for clams.

After his 3rd or 4th try he hit his stride and totally had it down. He got cockles and littlenecks: 40 for each of us since that was the limit. Meanwhile I had shucked about 15 oysters and my hands were giving in. These were HUGE and strong and I am so out of practice. I cannot believe I used to do several dozen a night as a pantry cook at a nice restaurant…20 something years ago. Yikes!

My foot (which is not broken by the way, we got a second radiology opinion: severely sprained/strained/bruised, etc… but not broken) was pretty sore from all the uneven ground so I sat down on the rocks and played with the snails and hermit crabs. Mark got a few more oysters. They were so big we didn’t need 18 each (the limit) so we got home with 20 or so. Muddy, happy and a bit worn out we slogged our way to the car and headed home.

We stopped in Purdy at the Local Boys produce stand to pick up some herbs and onions for the clams, and sweet corn to round out the meal. Mark scrubbed the bivalves while I prepared the kitchen: organic asparagus and corn on the cob to roast; sauteed onions, old bay, wine, herbs and butter for the clams; flour and cayenne, milk and egg, and panko for the oysters (they were really big and meaty and able to stand up to a double breading); and a bottle of wine to drink!

MMMM it was soooo good. I ate more oysters than anything and I was so very happy. Most of them weren’t pretty, I am very out of practice, but they made me happy! We did not finish any of it so leftovers galore, and happy memories to boot.

I don’t know why we haven’t done this before. How do we lose track of such fun things to do? And so easy, too! If getting dirty and working for your shellfish does not appeal to you I know a guy: Tom Farmer, of Tom Farmer Oyster Company. He does all the work for you and sells his goodies at the Port Orchard Saturday Farmer’s Market. You can pick up some salad fixings and a few side veggies while you are there, too. Pop those babies on the grill until they steam and get them open. A little vinegar is all I need for that perfect dish!

My dad used to sit on the beach with a beer and shuck oysters right into his mouth. I remember my grampa teaching me how to clean the razor clams that I had dug and gramma cooking them at the beach. Dungeness crab, shrimp, steamer clams, butter clams: I have so many food-memories around shellfish, the very thought makes me smile and salivate.

How do you like your oysters? Where do you get them? I love Kumamoto oysters the best of all for on the half-shell: a little lemon and I am good to go! Have you tried them?

UPDATE: Our clam leftovers turned into YUMMY fettucine the next day! While I waited for the water and pasta to boil I let the clam liquor reduce and shucked the clams. Just before the pasta was done I threw the clams into the sauce, added some fabulous olive oil and fresh herbs, and plopped the pasta in to mix it all up. The sauce was SO good! Mark toasted up some garlic bread and were slurping it up.