Jul 14, 2007

LOPEZ ISLAND, San Juans, Washington – "Rush hour," someone shouts, as another kayak gang rounds the point. A dolphin scallops along the surface. I stand thigh-deep in a tidepool, chewing on slimy seaweed.

Sorry. Not "slimy": mucilaginous. Talk about onomatopoeia...

"Nothing can hurt you on this beach," Earthwalk Northwest Instructor Karen Sherwood assures us. "Let your palette be the guide."

Some of the flotsam has the protein content of lean beef. Other fronds contain 10 times more iron than spinach. Quickly I learn to avoid acid kelp (desmarestia ligulata), a coralline algae gritty on the teeth, which also bleaches clothing.

Seaweed, frankly, is much tastier after Karen, Leah and the other expert chefs have at it. They scramble seaweed into spuds. They wrap tortillas around alaria lentil spread, rich with cumin and garlic. They roll nori into lumps, then pan-fry it, native snack-style.

But the other students – many involved in the ethnobotany apprenticeship – feast on the beach, so I fake along. Mmmmmmm, mucilaginous goodness... I'm sure it's obvious I normally eat pizza over the sink. Fine dining was a casualty of my divorce. I can cook, but I would prefer not to, a la Bartleby the Scrivener.

Too bad the South Sound is befouled, otherwise I could just graze at Golden Gardens, the nearby beach...

Check out the full story and shots in the The Seattle Post-Intelligencer on August 23, 2007.


  1. Anonymous7:05 PM

    I saw her cook once ... in 1996. Didn't dare sample the stuff, though...

  2. None of it sounds as nice as the fine, oaty goodness of Hob Nobs, now, does it?

  3. You're a BAD man, ERH. Is this how you repay the emotional support – not to mention shifting your worldly goods and all the placeholder crush suggestions?



  4. Anonymous,
    You're clearly fibbing. I don't recall cooking once in 1996. I was far too angry a young feminist.

    Plus, I was about to marry a man who knew how to bake and scratch together a roue and all that Betty Crocker crap. I had absolutely no incentive, beyond starvation...

  5. Pizza over the sink? Is that better or worse than pasta in the bath? Or crisp sandwiches? (I guess you'd call them chip sandwiches? But the english version of those, french fry sandwiches, is good too.)

    Sometimes, you have to sink really, really low to get a proper perspective when you're back up to actually using things classed as ingredients.

  6. In the UK, I lost a job once because I was a fresh-off-the-boat Yank horrified by chip butties (french fries and mayonnaise on a roll, for the uninitiated).

    A design firm invited me for a day's try-out. The work was easy and my potential colleagues quite kindly. The situation seemed promising, until we went to the pub at lunch and I could NOT stop laughing. "How about some more whipped fat with your carbohydrates, eh?"

    Anne Marie, I reckon pizza over the sink is slightly more déclassé than pasta in the bath:
    1. You generally have to cook pasta, rather than having it delivered.
    2. Baths have this air of luxury that sinks lack. Especially my sink, what with the chipped enamel and disintegrating tap.

    But, I don't know, maybe the level of dissolution depends on the intent of the eater? For example, bath-pasta seems more forgivable post-breakup or during, say, the final stages of manuscript revision. It's seedier if you've simply been playing video games all day in your pajamas...