Thursday, February 16, 2006

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
of course!

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


Anonymous Brother Jim said...

That cottage was full of Fiesta ware, novelty salt-and-pepper shakers and a fabulous 50's dining room set. And what outdoor shower!!!! Outrageous! ;-) I loved it there. You haven't lived until you've seen a nun digging for clams.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Lynne said...

LOL. you said it, bro.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous always bring tupperware said...

What great memories! I loved the fact that we could sleep out on the screened in porch. The only not so great memory of Pocasset (speaking of nuns) was making us drink the sugary milk when we were done with our cereal. Yuk! But periwinkles were and are the best! By the way, Brother Jim, they still have that '50s dining room set.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

R U kidding me??? Leave it to you... what's next some jelly fish stew? You’re killing me... I'm just saying.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

This soooo takes me back! Remember climbing all those big, slippery rocks we were supposed to stay off of? Had a lot of periwinkles on them though!

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember those days. I was always in trouble for being in the water. As for the periwinkles, YUM!!! Anonymous doesn't know what they are missing!

brother John

12:09 PM  
Anonymous mansfield manga said...

I agree with uncle john, don't knock um til you try um. or as i like to say mais para mim, portuguese for more for me

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks heaps from Australia - grew up in UK and ate these 'buggers' with the family and enjoyed. Found them at the local fish market and thought hmmmmm now how did mum cook these when I was a kid. So jumped on the internet and bingo found your recipe.

I certainly will enjoy and try to convince my Aussie husband to do so as well, and once again thanks.

From 'down under'

12:22 AM  
Blogger minnie said...

I grew up eating periwinkles the Asian way, sizzled with garlic and ginger and then they hand you a toothpick. You can get them at many dimu sum places in Chinatown.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to you and everyone else who posted! I found these in my Vietnamese grocer here in Oakland, CA and was Googling to find out what to do with them. I'm going to first boil them and then throw them in a risotto with some clams.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was in Plano, Texas at the Asia World Market. Bought some dungeness crab, lobster, clams, and PERIWINKLES! I cooked the crabs, lobster and clams in a giant pot over a gas fired burner...and the buggers on a skillet over our little firepit. Great night. All the kids had a ball picking out the suckers. I added some butter, garlic, salt, pepper, and water, and then braised for 20 minutes. Yum yum yum!!!

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Happy Joy Joy ... we are having our annual Lobster Boil tomorrow and for a treat for the kiddies (and for me too lol) I just picked up about 6 lbs of "wrinkles" which is what we used to call them growing up. It will be the first time serving them at the bbq..for the life of me I don't know why I didn't think of it before...enjoy!

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had a feed of wilks (as we call periwinkles in Ireland) last night. Picked them on Annalong shore in the Mournes area of Northern Ireland. Beautiful large succulent ones. My 8 year old son and his mate had a competition to see who could pick the largest. They're not, however, the best at eating them - just watching me enjoy this delicious, wholesome and free snack!

5:15 AM  

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