This West Coast Living

For Dad's birthday: a West Coast feast of Mussels


I've always sort of complained about living on an island and travelling to school everyday: the ferry, and the commute which entails, plus all those missed sailings that leave you waiting, or worse, stranded after the last boat of the day to Bowen disappears around the corner. There's also the effort and planning involved in going to town for the day, or even just to pick something up from a store which would normally only take 10 minutes. (Some might argue that kids from Bowen have an exceptional sense of time and organisation - I'll add that it's necessity rather than choice.) Add in the time for busing and you'll be home at 8 tonight, tell your teacher you can't come before school tomorrow either, unless you want to get up at 5 am. However, that isn't the point of this post. I wanted to take the time to share a moment of appreciation I had today for where I live, and the amazing opportunities I've enjoyed growing up in such a rural, carefree environment. From the moment when we could walk and play, I was outside, exploring the tunnels of trees and ferns that made up our backyard, which seemed to expand across the whole island. It wasn't until I turned seven that I remember realising our backyard only made up one part of a whole neighborhood of houses each with their own backyards. Which meant more trees to explore, more trails to map out, and wearing our exploring hats and holding fake cameras to capture our adventures, we made our way quietly - so as not to disturb the wonders of the trees, we loved to imagine a whole community of fairies hidden away among the branches and beneath the underbrush of the forest - and eventually found the perfect site to set up a wooden fort. Collecting large sticks and fallen branches to build our own camp, each new place became somewhere to play for hours. 

There was also the great big rope swing that was strung between two trees, one that I only ever swung on once before bulldozers moved in, and as quickly as the trees came down, as well as the forts of kids and evidence of their alternate worlds, houses were built up maximising the space that was once an entire planet still being explored to kids. 

It seems there is always a battle between nature and the destruction of machines. Not so literally as science-fiction might suggest, but the great bodies of orange bulldozers are always the first sign of trees to fall, dirt to be picked up and moved by the ton, and a whole new façade for the area. I remember along the Cape Roger Curtis coastline a few years ago, an area which has undergone a huge development, bulldozers were the first to show up, and since then have marked the continuing changes occurring and those to come. Lots have been cordoned off with fences and signs pushing the public out of areas we we've always had free range to explore, and the areas we've had to play camouflage and hide-and-seek on our walks with visiting relatives have now become shadows of the newest house, or somewhere beneath the newly paved road across the bed of what was once a seasonal stream.

And now, as houses are slowly being constructed with optimal views, the path which long-time residents of Bowen have always enjoyed has been squished into a thin and controlled line along the coast, with fenced hedges along either side. It is unclear whether the fences are to protect the plants from hungry deer (the grass and ferns which they once fed on bulldozed into piles of dirt), or to deter people from damaging the hedges in a fight of protest. A sense of distrust between both groups that was established from the onset of the project.

Mum and I walked along this path today, one that has become even more popular as more and more people come to see the changes that have undergone as million dollar lots are purchased, and we noted the slow integration of pieces of construction into each lot, perhaps in hope that the public will fail to notice, and their private dock will pass through council so they can travel to their summer cottage without being forced to ride the ferry, and meet the people who have grown up and seen all the changes that money and a sense of entitlement or power that often goes along with it which has been brought to the island. 
We used to walk down this path as kids, with our parents and their backpacks that held food for a picnic, and if we were planning on making a day out of it, matches and paper for a fire on the beach. Today, people are still trying to claim the beach as a public space, and in the middle of a circle of arranged logs was a fire pit made from rocks set above the high tide line to keep it on the beach until someone, disgruntled by trespassers, dismantled it. This reminded me of days we would spend at the lighthouse of the Cape, paddling in the rock pools looking for starfish and sea snails, and building rock forts for nature dolls that my sister would sometimes make out of mosses and sticks, and for hair, 'old man's beard.' Our parents would always have a large thermos of fruity tea, and passing around the flask we would warm up before dashing out after only just finishing a cheese sandwich. There were days when we would miss the beach completely after getting caught up in games among the trees, spending hours playing hide-and-seek, or running through the ferns and trails so caught up in the excitement. 

It's sad to see the coastline completely changed, transformed from the wilderness I remember from my childhood, and molded into someone else's perfected ideal of how nature can be controlled. Advertisements for the area, videos of the coast and the 'natural beauty' of the properties including wildlife and the untouched landscape, reflect a peaceful coast, but as buyers bring in supplies and ideas for building, that serenity quickly becomes past, and changes to the natural ecosystem as our neighborhood once saw when I was seven, leaves the coast and the area just like any other human settlement. With each additional property, and each new home built, it becomes more and more urbanised, a sterilized version of nature, manicured to banish the 'wild' out of wilderness.

I'd like to share a recipe for a west coast favourite, and along the Cape Roger Curtis rocks, the main ingredient can be found, growing in great expanse, and before the waste of many residents spoils the availability of these, they can be harvested and cooked fairly quickly - a delicious seafood dish. Mussels have always been a favourite of mine, and I suppose with living on an island, or near the sea, I've developed a taste for the salty taste of any seafood. It may as well be one of my favourite's, although we don't usually take mussels straight from the rocks. It can be done, and with enough knowledge about which mussels are good to eat, I bet they'd be delicious. Using store-bought or mussels straight from the sea, or even from a local fisherman who knows the rocks well, seafood feasts are great for weekend dinners, parties, and tasty treats.

Mussels in White Wine and Cream Sauce

{Print me here}

{Makes 1lb mussels, which served 3 of us perfectly}

{Ingredients:}

1 lb fresh mussels

2 oz dry, white wine
4oz (118 mL) heavy cream
1 large shallot, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, diced finely
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

{Directions:}

First, wash the mussels in cold running water, doing a quick visual inspection of each mussel. Throw any mussels away that have a cracked or broken shell, feel very light, or are open. Open mussels can be tapped gently on the surface, and fresh ones will close, if they don't, throw them away. Finally, remove any "beards" on the mussels (these are what helps the mussels to hold onto rocks) by pulling up and down to remove. Rinse again, and you're ready to cook!

In a large saucepan with a thick bottom, one that has a tight fitting lid, heat wine, shallots and garlic, and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, and cover with the lid, lowering the heat to medium-high and cooking for about 5 minutes. At this point the mussels should all be fully open, and should be plump and juicy - careful not to overcook.

Spoon out the mussels into a serving bowl, leaving the liquid in the saucepan. 
Add in the cream and bring to a boil, and then add the parsley before pouring over the mussels.

Serve immediately with freshly baked bread, such as these delicious gluten free Rosemary Garlic Bread Buns which I seem to make every time we have mussels (they're so quick and easy!) and are perfect to dip in the remaining liquid. The shells of eaten mussels can be used as tongs to eat other mussels.

Enjoy! xx S.


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Think of Me Gluten-Free: This West Coast Living

20 May 2013

This West Coast Living

For Dad's birthday: a West Coast feast of Mussels


I've always sort of complained about living on an island and travelling to school everyday: the ferry, and the commute which entails, plus all those missed sailings that leave you waiting, or worse, stranded after the last boat of the day to Bowen disappears around the corner. There's also the effort and planning involved in going to town for the day, or even just to pick something up from a store which would normally only take 10 minutes. (Some might argue that kids from Bowen have an exceptional sense of time and organisation - I'll add that it's necessity rather than choice.) Add in the time for busing and you'll be home at 8 tonight, tell your teacher you can't come before school tomorrow either, unless you want to get up at 5 am. However, that isn't the point of this post. I wanted to take the time to share a moment of appreciation I had today for where I live, and the amazing opportunities I've enjoyed growing up in such a rural, carefree environment. From the moment when we could walk and play, I was outside, exploring the tunnels of trees and ferns that made up our backyard, which seemed to expand across the whole island. It wasn't until I turned seven that I remember realising our backyard only made up one part of a whole neighborhood of houses each with their own backyards. Which meant more trees to explore, more trails to map out, and wearing our exploring hats and holding fake cameras to capture our adventures, we made our way quietly - so as not to disturb the wonders of the trees, we loved to imagine a whole community of fairies hidden away among the branches and beneath the underbrush of the forest - and eventually found the perfect site to set up a wooden fort. Collecting large sticks and fallen branches to build our own camp, each new place became somewhere to play for hours. 

There was also the great big rope swing that was strung between two trees, one that I only ever swung on once before bulldozers moved in, and as quickly as the trees came down, as well as the forts of kids and evidence of their alternate worlds, houses were built up maximising the space that was once an entire planet still being explored to kids. 

It seems there is always a battle between nature and the destruction of machines. Not so literally as science-fiction might suggest, but the great bodies of orange bulldozers are always the first sign of trees to fall, dirt to be picked up and moved by the ton, and a whole new façade for the area. I remember along the Cape Roger Curtis coastline a few years ago, an area which has undergone a huge development, bulldozers were the first to show up, and since then have marked the continuing changes occurring and those to come. Lots have been cordoned off with fences and signs pushing the public out of areas we we've always had free range to explore, and the areas we've had to play camouflage and hide-and-seek on our walks with visiting relatives have now become shadows of the newest house, or somewhere beneath the newly paved road across the bed of what was once a seasonal stream.

And now, as houses are slowly being constructed with optimal views, the path which long-time residents of Bowen have always enjoyed has been squished into a thin and controlled line along the coast, with fenced hedges along either side. It is unclear whether the fences are to protect the plants from hungry deer (the grass and ferns which they once fed on bulldozed into piles of dirt), or to deter people from damaging the hedges in a fight of protest. A sense of distrust between both groups that was established from the onset of the project.

Mum and I walked along this path today, one that has become even more popular as more and more people come to see the changes that have undergone as million dollar lots are purchased, and we noted the slow integration of pieces of construction into each lot, perhaps in hope that the public will fail to notice, and their private dock will pass through council so they can travel to their summer cottage without being forced to ride the ferry, and meet the people who have grown up and seen all the changes that money and a sense of entitlement or power that often goes along with it which has been brought to the island. 
We used to walk down this path as kids, with our parents and their backpacks that held food for a picnic, and if we were planning on making a day out of it, matches and paper for a fire on the beach. Today, people are still trying to claim the beach as a public space, and in the middle of a circle of arranged logs was a fire pit made from rocks set above the high tide line to keep it on the beach until someone, disgruntled by trespassers, dismantled it. This reminded me of days we would spend at the lighthouse of the Cape, paddling in the rock pools looking for starfish and sea snails, and building rock forts for nature dolls that my sister would sometimes make out of mosses and sticks, and for hair, 'old man's beard.' Our parents would always have a large thermos of fruity tea, and passing around the flask we would warm up before dashing out after only just finishing a cheese sandwich. There were days when we would miss the beach completely after getting caught up in games among the trees, spending hours playing hide-and-seek, or running through the ferns and trails so caught up in the excitement. 

It's sad to see the coastline completely changed, transformed from the wilderness I remember from my childhood, and molded into someone else's perfected ideal of how nature can be controlled. Advertisements for the area, videos of the coast and the 'natural beauty' of the properties including wildlife and the untouched landscape, reflect a peaceful coast, but as buyers bring in supplies and ideas for building, that serenity quickly becomes past, and changes to the natural ecosystem as our neighborhood once saw when I was seven, leaves the coast and the area just like any other human settlement. With each additional property, and each new home built, it becomes more and more urbanised, a sterilized version of nature, manicured to banish the 'wild' out of wilderness.

I'd like to share a recipe for a west coast favourite, and along the Cape Roger Curtis rocks, the main ingredient can be found, growing in great expanse, and before the waste of many residents spoils the availability of these, they can be harvested and cooked fairly quickly - a delicious seafood dish. Mussels have always been a favourite of mine, and I suppose with living on an island, or near the sea, I've developed a taste for the salty taste of any seafood. It may as well be one of my favourite's, although we don't usually take mussels straight from the rocks. It can be done, and with enough knowledge about which mussels are good to eat, I bet they'd be delicious. Using store-bought or mussels straight from the sea, or even from a local fisherman who knows the rocks well, seafood feasts are great for weekend dinners, parties, and tasty treats.

Mussels in White Wine and Cream Sauce


{Makes 1lb mussels, which served 3 of us perfectly}

{Ingredients:}

1 lb fresh mussels

2 oz dry, white wine
4oz (118 mL) heavy cream
1 large shallot, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, diced finely
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

{Directions:}

First, wash the mussels in cold running water, doing a quick visual inspection of each mussel. Throw any mussels away that have a cracked or broken shell, feel very light, or are open. Open mussels can be tapped gently on the surface, and fresh ones will close, if they don't, throw them away. Finally, remove any "beards" on the mussels (these are what helps the mussels to hold onto rocks) by pulling up and down to remove. Rinse again, and you're ready to cook!

In a large saucepan with a thick bottom, one that has a tight fitting lid, heat wine, shallots and garlic, and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, and cover with the lid, lowering the heat to medium-high and cooking for about 5 minutes. At this point the mussels should all be fully open, and should be plump and juicy - careful not to overcook.

Spoon out the mussels into a serving bowl, leaving the liquid in the saucepan. 
Add in the cream and bring to a boil, and then add the parsley before pouring over the mussels.

Serve immediately with freshly baked bread, such as these delicious gluten free Rosemary Garlic Bread Buns which I seem to make every time we have mussels (they're so quick and easy!) and are perfect to dip in the remaining liquid. The shells of eaten mussels can be used as tongs to eat other mussels.

Enjoy! xx S.


Labels: , , , , , ,

2 Comments:

At 9 June 2013 at 05:32 , Blogger Aryana Rayne Klein said...

I'm drinking my morning tea and enjoying your blog Shona. Well done. Keep writing and cooking. I'm enjoying it!

 
At 17 June 2013 at 21:01 , Blogger Shona Jane said...

Thanks so much Aryana! I hope you come back soon!

 

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