Periwinkles - Memories of Pocasset
When I was a kid, my grandparents had a cottage in Pocasset on Cape Cod. I have such fond memories of the time our family spent there. We would go to the beach all day long, sit on the front porch on rocking chairs and stare out at the ocean right across the street, flag down the ice cream man at dusk and of course, pick periwinkles. That's right. Pick periwinkles (aka snails or "the poor man's escargot"). We'd go down to the beach and look for the biggest periwinkles we could find - on big rocks, under the seaweed. There were always plenty available because (and I know you might find this shocking), there weren't many people out looking for periwinkles. And what did we do with these slimy little things? Eat them
I know I may have lost some of you there but for those of you with an open palate and mind, continue on. When we returned to the house with our periwinkle stash, my mother would cook them up on the stove and when they were done we would all sit around the table and have a community binge. On the table would be one big bowl for the yet-to-be-eaten periwinkles and one for the shells. Sometimes my brother, Tom, and I would, instead of eating them one at a time, stockpile a handful of them and then eat them. It was not the most attractive thing to look at but we LOVED it. Eating periwinkles was and still is like taking a bite of the ocean. So salty, a little chewy, all delicious.
These memories all came flooding back to me today when I took my sister, Carol, on a tour of Inman Square in Cambridge which ended at the New Deal Fish Market. There behind the glass case amidst all the beautiful fresh salmon, codfish, octopus and sardines were my old friends, the periwinkles. At a mere $2.39 a pound, I instantly knew I would be walking out with a bagful. What a nice feeling to channel warm summer memories in the dead of winter.
For those of you who are still with me and might actually want to try these sometime, here are the answers to the questions I think you might have...
Where do you get Periwinkles? If "picking them" off the rocks at the beach is not your idea of a good time, you can often find periwinkles at Portuguese or Asian fish markets. Call ahead and see if that day is your lucky one. If you do "pick them yourself, grab a small piece of seaweed off one of the rocks to add flavor to the periwinkles when you cook them.
How do you cook Periwinkles? It's one of the easiest things in the world. Put them in a pan with just enough water to cover them and season them with garlic salt and pepper. If you have a little seaweed, throw that in too. Boil on the stove for about 20 minutes or so.
How do you EAT Periwinkles? Got a pin or a safety pin? That's your utensil. You should also have two bowls as I mentioned above. One for the periwinkles yet to be eaten and one for the shells. Then dig in. Simply flick off the "eye" (looks kind of like a fish scale), stick your pin all the way in the shell and carefully pull out the periwinkle. Voila.
I hate to admit that if I hadn't grown up eating periwinkles, I might not be too thrilled to try them. To be honest, they're pretty ugly little buggers. But my advise to you is don't look, just eat. You'll thank me. Enjoy.
New Deal Fish Market
722 Cambridge Street (between Inman Square and the Cambridgeside Galleria), Cambridge, 617-876-8227