Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life and Goose Barnacles

Last night I had goose barnacles for dinner.

Actually, that's like, the slang term. Percebes, which I couldn't quite pronounce correctly, are an expensive and delicious delicacy in Northern Spain and Portugal - from which these particular intertidal organisms you see in the photo were shipped. Goose barnacles. They looked like funky asparagus tips.

My host (who happened to be from Northern Spain) explained to me the particular magic of seafood from Northern Spain and Portugal in this way: "You get the sea from the East, and the Atlantic ocean from the West..." and then he clapped his hands together in one sweeping grandiose movement. I understood. He also explained the high price tag for these particular percebes - people risk their lives between the tides that slam into the rocks on the coast, just to collect these little guys. They sell for about $125-$150 a pound. And most of that is shell that gets discarded. I peeked at the barnacles again and felt like I was staring into a pot of gold.

I was very privileged to be a guest for dinner. It was so fascinating trying them for the first time, with people who were truly excited and overjoyed because they had been waiting years to eat them once again. And they shared them with me. Food is magical in so many ways. The tastes and smells of something new, the cultures and stories, and lives, behind everything. The people who invite you to their home and feed you. To steal a quote from Nigella Lawson, "When I am talking about food, I am talking about life."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Goose barnacles! Yow! What a memorable experience!
Love you- Mom