bivalves and birthdays. i cooked mussels for the first time ever this week. faux-thai-timmy style. which means i sweated little potato dice, lemongrass, shallots, ginger and garlic, dumped in a healthy amount of white wine and coconut milk, tossed in a couple desiccated lime leaves (they have such things in england, of course) and brought to a boil before tossing in my thoroughly debearded cozze (they are italian mussels, after all -- thai broth or no). the whole cleaning process was a bit of a stress-out for me since googling only turns up all kinds of conflicting information (soak? scrub? soak with cornmeal? an italian friend told me to soak on top of an overturned plate and all the sand would collect underneath. she also said that refrigerating them was a bad idea and would kill them). tim offered his usual voice of reason and said i just needed to rinse them well under cold running water, debeard by holding them hinge down, pulling beard towards the hinge (i discovered that doing it any other way was perhaps less than kind to the mussels, as i would end up with little chunks of mussel attached the ends of my beards. ouch.). only clams need the soaking, i guess. the one good (and the only) fishmonger in this town actually sells his shellfish quite clean. it's weird that i've never cooked these on my own before, but i guess that's because there's always been someone around to boil bivalves alive for me. i think my mom used to cook mussels (simply -- steamed with garlic and ginger only in their own mussel juices) once every couple of months. which is more often than one would expect for a family ensonced in the center of the country. what exactly is a mussel beard? miraculously, my mussels tasted like tim's. that's to say, they were good. and i didn't kill anyone! for that, i am always thankful. perhaps you too will appreciate the little mussel family i discovered in my batch (the spoon's a size reference): and, as promised, these are cuore di bue tomatoes. still not in their prime, but getting there: i've been devouring david mitchell's 'cloud atlas' and loving every single page. how did this book ever escape my notice before? i don't know how this guy does it, but this faux-melvillian memoir cum musical/epistolary saga cum whodunit cum future dystopic thriller brings to mind, oh, i dunno -- those nested matryoshka dolls, a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a..., and god knows what else. it's like reading 10 really really really good books, because the chapters can exist independently of each other, but the fact that there's this link, these written histories that run between and through them all (amongst other things), that makes it much more than the sum of its parts. it takes your breath away. and it's incredibly difficult to put down. and yes, come sunday, i will have spent a quarter century upon this earth. tanti auguri a me!


Blogger foo said...

Winnie -- I believe I read somewhere that mussel beards are pieces of seaweed, and it's how the mussel attaches itself to rocks and other surfaces. Happy birthday! Did you know that you are 12 days older than me?

6/11/2005 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger winnie said...

that makes sense about the mussels, cos they sure like seaweed bits. and there'd be bits of rock and shell tangled up in the beards -- that must be how they farm the little guys. the mussels attach themselves to ropes with the seaweed.

i think i did know that, actually. want to come to chicago to meet up with me and joyce in late june for a little birthday throwdown?

6/12/2005 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Molly said...

THOSE were teh tomatoes I saw in all the little produce markets in Florence!

I didn't know it was your BIRTHDAY???!!! Happiest of happys to you.

6/13/2005 07:31:00 PM  

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