Sunday, June 03, 2012

clam anatomy

I haven't cleaned clams for a year. A strange species. Each time I have to find my way anew, scissoring into the slimy innards as if for the first time, remembering what we keep, what we throw away. There is no part of the clam that looks like it should be eaten. And I insisit on doing this part if I am expected to eat them later, dredged in egg and milk and flour by turns, then into the oil for a minute or less, until they shrink. That's how I tell they're done.

Its been a bit since my last post. We sent my brother out to sea and since he wanted no part of a funeral, memorial, celebration of life, or wake, his wife honored his wish and called it an open house. So we drove to Port Orford -- Port Awful to those who know it -- ate good food, enjoyed his paintings, and his peers celebrated his life whether he liked it or not. His children and two of his three wives were present. Seeing his son was like seeing him, young and healthy, handsome and whole. His daughter, my sweet sweet neice, was there with her family. And my sister came. She and I are the last of my immediate clan.

I was sitting on the porch, the rare coastal sun glancing through thick white clouds to warm us, as some guy sitting next to me began to ramble about Doug. "Oh, yeah, he was a fighter, a boxer, liked throwing his fists around. Oh yeah, he did hard time. Prison. Yeah, he was tough." I turned to him, wanted to see who was telling lies of my brother's misspent youth, as if the truth wasn't story enough. The man, caught up in his nonsense, looked at me mid-sentence and asked who I was. "Doug's sister," I said, not elaborating, not calling bullshit as I might have. I just smiled and he stopped talking. I heard him muttering something like, "Well, he did like to fight."

I'm not sure whether he liked to fight or not. I don't think he did. I think he had to fight on occasion like most men do -- or that most men who drink too much do -- but he wasn't a boxer. He did play baseball. He was in the first Little League World Series and might have gone pro were it not for his love of booze and distaste for authority. He did go to prison, but like most men who have, he didn't talk much about it. To my memory, he entered prison with slicked back hair, wearing a sharkshin suit, with a pool cue in one hand and an ace up his sleeve; he came out a Buddhist fisherman who read biographies, wove baskets, painted pictures of the sea, and followed liberal politics. He still, to the best of my knowlege, did not acknowlege police authority and considered a boat at sea a safe distance from trouble. His paintings changed the way I look at water.

My husband, always looking to entertain himself brought along the crab gear, so we ate well, four dungeoness males slathered in butter and garlic, and good sourdough bread baked that morning by my sister-in-law, according to the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, also soaked in butter.

I love butter.

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