7/23/2005

bluebells, seashells, France and the beach

Since this is a food blog, I should just tell you about the highlights of my day at the beach, yesterday, via the stomach.

Friday Morning, 10:48 a.m.
In a haste, my girlfriend Natalie picks me up along with my two children for a day at the beach and to pêcher les coques (pronounced coau-k). Let me get a dictionary and look that word up because I don't know what they are called in English, but I do know from my one year of Italian that they are called vongole. (Embarrassing, I know for someone who’s been speaking French fluently for the past 15 years…Go figure!)

Ok, I just looked it up finally in the LaRousse French/English Dictionary, and well, I'm a bit embarrassed because my 9 year old son, Pierre, kept calling them in English "cockles" and I kept saying, "That's not it." (hm!!...cough, cough, hm…) Well, that IS what they are called! Geez, this is embarrassing! He's 9, I'm 33; who's the truly bilingual one in the family? !!

La Pêche aux Coques
Cockles are lovely little seashells that bury themselves in the sand and during very low tides, are easily uncovered by scraping the sands surface, where they finally roll to the top. It must be during really low tides where you can wander far out onto the ocean's floor and scrape in gunky places.

It's quite exciting to make sand figures in the wet, sometimes, slimy sand where you think of nothing, entranced and switching gears to a meditative state, and find chucky little cockles peering up through the sand at you. It's addicting collecting them and we spent over two hours on our hands and knees brushing, skimming, collecting, and digging and thinking of nothing more than, “Come out, come out! Where ever you are!”

The kids loved it! I loved it! Cockle fishing makes you become obsessed with finding a bed of large ones. So obsessed that when the tides rolls in at incredible speed, you find yourself soaked in a matter of minutes and then panic hits.

Not the panic of someone afraid of drowning but of the gold-digger who hasn't collected enough gold. Frantically, I start running around digging hither-tither for cockles.

"I don't have enough!" (I'm lugging about 6 lb. of shells in my bucket!) When is enough ever enough?

Then a miracle happens, the tide's movement over the sand, naturally calls the cockles to surface. Within 15 minutes, we find ourselves knee deep in water and instead of this being an end to our fishing expedition, it becomes the beginning of the real, large cockle fishing expedition!

By simply reaching down to the surface of the sand below come up with handfuls of the fat, chucky cockles. They're skimming the sand's surface, or "riding the tide" in search of a new location to settle.

Finally, the tide is too high and the buckets are bursting. The children (Natalie's crew consists of two children of the same ages as mind) are famished, it's after 2 pm and we haven't had lunch yet. We finally stop but Natalie has to practically drag me from the water.

Lunch was Natalie's preparation, as I said in the beginning of this blog, In a haste, my girlfriend Natalie picks me up along with my two children for a day at the beach... I had been working on my website and forgot to pack our picnic. Natalie, wanting to get to the beach at the lowest part of the tide for the maximum collection of sea shells, said we could share their picnic. So we left the house within minutes of her arrival, half pulling on our suits as we emerge from the house on to the public city street.

Excellent Sandwiches
Instead of mayo or butter, traditional spreads for ham sandwiches in France, Natalie switched to "La Vache Qui Rit" or "The laughing Cow". I bring it up here because I know you can buy it in the States and if you can, you must try it!

Sliced ham, lettuce, tomato and laughing cow cheese. Smooth, creamy and tasty. Much better than mayo (and I love mayo!).

French Beach time
The afternoon was spent lounging on the beach, swimming and playing paddle ball (Ok, chasing that blooming little ball all over the beach!) and building sand castles, real summertime activities. A final stop in the neighboring coastal town of La Tranche Sur Mer, amongst pedestrian-packed streets, we stopped for an ice cream (the kids) and coffees (the women). With everyone in tank tops and flip flops on foot or bikes sporting sunglasses and bright red "I've been in the sun too much" tans, we feel like we're all on vacation and never want to leave.

The hour long drive back to the house is a drowsy one but upon arrival, my lovely French husband had a cocktail chilling, the appetizer on display, the table set and dinner simmering on the stove. (Ah, I could get used to this!)

Days like this are what keep me in France: being able to go out and fish your dinner; eating and discovering new and exciting things; living only an hour away from the coast and coming home to gorgeous meals and festive moments for nothing more than to celebrate the beautiful weather and the fact that we are all happy, healthy, safe, alive and together.

Vive tomorrow!

(Future blogs: Last night's dinner + how to prepare cockles.)

2 Comments:

Blogger Alison said...

Sounds like a great day...

8:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Down Under said...

U've got me very envious!!!!

12:13:00 PM  

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