Sunday, November 1, 2009

O, No! More PBS Cooking Shows!

I’ve got to quit watching cooking shows on PBS.

Friday I was working on a gourd project and had the TV on in the background. It was a great day for cooking shows so I was kind of watching them out of the corner of my eye.

Mexico, One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayliss came on and I gave the TV a little more attention. Most of the recipes Rick prepared in the beginning of this show weren’t of that much interest to me so I went back to the gourd I was working on.

Then, Rick walks into his garage, climbs a ladder, and gets a paella pan out of rafter storage. This really got my attention. Not only do I have a fascination with paella, but he pulled down a pan that was three feet across! Check it out here.

Now we’re talking my language. Paella, for lots of people.

I put down the gourd.

As Rick and his daughter unloaded shopping bags they pulled out pounds and pounds of ingredients for just this one dish. I was in too much of a worshipful daze to note all the ingredients and their quantities but the ones that stick in my mind are 8 pounds of rice, 30 chicken thighs, 4 pounds of shrimp, 7 pounds of mussels, 3 pounds of chorizo, I was beginning to drool.

They used bricks to build a kind of raised ring out on their patio and built a wood fire inside it. The raised brick ring was sized just right for the three foot paella pan to fit across the top over the fire.

The rest of the episode showed Rick cooking the paella right there in front of his guests and then everyone’s happy faces as they got to eat it.

Do you remember me mentioning that I hate Rick Bayliss? The guy is doing everything I want to do and I’m just so jealous… I love him.

Later that night a show came on that I’ve never seen before. Adventures With Ruth, by Gourmet Magazine had this episode set in Seattle, WA. If you follow the link this episode is called "Jon Rowley’s Seattle." Early in the show they filmed commercial salmon fishing on a small boat and that was very interesting, but what really got my attention was the mussel farm and then the clam, oyster, and green harvesting right on the beach and in the woods.

If you’ve never had the chance to get your own food in the wild and then prepare it and eat it right where you got it, you’re really missing something incredible.

Going to the grocery store, buying the food, taking it home, cooking it, and eating it is fine. But there is something deeply satisfying to our soul found in working for our food. Grow it and pick it yourself, dive for it, dig it up, hunt for it, fish for it… you wouldn’t believe how incredible the food is when you catch it yourself. That’s what they did in this show.

The mussels were harvested from a raft floating in the middle of the bay. Oysters and clams were taken from the mud and gravel flats as the tide receded. Fiddlehead ferns were collected in the woods. Edible shore plants were gathered while walking along the beach. And it was all cooked over an open flame right on the beach. Man, you talk about good food. I about drooled all down the front of my shirt.

When I was in high school I worked in a bait shop on a southern California pier. One winter night it was cold and windy with hardly any customers coming in. The older fellow I worked with asked me if I’d ever eaten mussels. When I said no he said he’d just pulled some from the pier pilings that morning and we should see what they’re like.

I went out to the restaurant on the end of the pier and begged some melted butter from them. Danny and I pulled the mussels from the refrigerator and we scrubbed a bunch of them clean in the sink. We pulled down a little camp stove the shop owner used to make her morning tea and set some mussels to steam in a little pot.

Wow… I was in heaven eating those steamed mussels with melted butter. That may have been one of the first times I’d eaten “different” or “strange” food and it got me on the road I’m on today where it’s pretty rare for me to pass up on food just because I’ve never had it before.

If you get the opportunity, gather your own food. Hunt for it, fish for it, dig for it, feel where it came from… work for it. Eat it in the field if you can. You’ll love it.


Lady Arwen of the Silver Rose said...

I've seen those mussels on pilings and under the pier. It never occurred to me you could pry them off and cook them up. I bet you need a fishing license though, which I don't have.
I know we went clamming in Pismo a few times but I never found any legal sized clams.

Lady Arwen of the Silver Rose said...

I didn't know you had a thing for Paella. The Italian show is always talking about paella too. I don't think I've ever tried it.

Guy Taylor said...

Yup, that's just where they can be gathered in the wild.
In California you do need a fishing license to gather shellfish, including mussels. And you do need to take care that they are collected at a time of year when there is no danger of paralitic shellfish poisoning. A good rule of thumb is that mussels are safe to gather in months that contain an "r": September, October, November, etc. these are months when the water is generally too cold for red tides to develop.

A little known piece of history: Pismo clams used to be harvested at what is now Bolsa Chica State Beach by running a horse drawn plow down the beach at low tide. The clams were so plentiful that they could be picked out of the turned furrow.
Nowadays, I've had the best luck SCUBA diving for Pismo clams just outside the surf zone. they are more plentiful in the deeper water than they are where you can get wading, even on low tide.

Lady Arwen of the Silver Rose said...

Next time we go somewhere that has mussels, remind me to try them. No point cooking them ourselves if I don't like them. I'm not big on oysters. I eat one once in a while and then I go, "Yep, don't like oysters".

Guy Taylor said...

Mussels are not typically eaten raw like oysters are. They're cooked similar to clams. If you like steamed clams there is a good chance you'll like steamed mussels. I think they are more meaty than clams and have a flavor more like the ocean.