A boy never forgets his first 'duck. Or his first German TV documentary shoot...
Mare TV is in town, taking in the Seattle waterfront and its multi-splendored offerings of scenery, food, and fun. They were especially keen to sample what the old-timers politely call horseneck, so we saddled up the whole FOTL gang in our trusty Folksvagen and rode a ferry over to the far side of Puget Sound with a Hood Canal geoduck in mind.
These low-low summer tides are generally the most pleasant time to dig a three or four foot hole on the beach and wrestle a horseneck out of the mud. On Sunday we had a -3 foot low tide to get excited about but wouldn't you know the first heat wave of the season had passed by and a new marine layer (wonky weatherman-speak for shitty weather) was moving in. (No doubt you've heard about Seattle's two seasons: winter and August. Da-dum-dum. I'll be here all week.) This presented some problems. Barometric pressure, I learned, can cause a tide to lose its edge. In this case, the water wasn't draining off the flats the way one would normally expect for such a low tide. What's more, a breezy chop was causing wave action that muddied the water and had the geoducks mostly hunkering down into their lairs. Even the geoduck-sniffing dogs were getting blanked.
We did find one good show, though, and that's all that mattered. My pal John Adams, proprietor of the family-owned Skookum Point Shellfish Farm at the convergence of Little Skookum and Totten Inlets in Shelton, was on hand to offer his shellfish expertise. (If you ever have a chance to slurp down some of his beach-grown Skookum Point oysters, don't hesitate—they're some of the best I've ever eaten.)
This 'duck turned out to be an obstinate one. Even after Riley touched the tip of his siphon he (or she) refused to back down, keeping its neck extended like a middle digit. After digging a couple feet down next to the burrow we could see why: the clam was way down there, deeper than most, and firmly ensconced in sediment that was more like wet cement than loose sand or mud. I suppose it felt secure in its holdings. Riley wasn't deterred—he told his dad to keep digging!
The tide was on its way back in when we finally pulled the 4-pound clam from its burrow. Tradition dictated that Riley give his first 'duck a big kiss. He didn't flinch.
Later in camp, with a terrific view of the estuary, we picnicked with our 'duck, enjoying a later afternoon ceviche and some good local beer. I'm sorry to say the Germans weren't so impressed by Pike Stout—they're pilsner drinkers, after all—but the geoduck ceviche got gobbled up in no time. This ceviche, using the neck exclusively, was similar to the one I wrote about here, with the exception that we substituted mango for papaya. I'm thinking I might cook the body meat in a sweet and sour sauce tonight.