Kevin and I went clamming this morning, accompanied by our friend Katie, who is visiting from New York. It was a very satisfying experience.
Until today, I thought I was the only person on the planet who gets a thrill out of raking clams up out of the seabed, but now I know there’s at least one other. Perhaps this means that Katie and I have a low thrill threshold, or that we don’t really know what a thrill is, or maybe that we’re just inordinately fond of shellfish, but it was a joy to take someone who took so much pleasure in the activity out into the bay with us.
Katie, who is as die-hard an urbanite as I was, nevertheless appreciates what we’re trying to do here. She’s as ready to fish and lobster as she was to clam, and she’s even warming up to the chickens. She understands the pleasures of a shack in the woods – the pond, the privacy, the hammock.
But we all have to draw the line somewhere.
Logistics required us to take both our vehicles to Cotuit Bay, and Katie rode home with Kevin in the truck, with me following in the car. When we were about half a mile from home, Kevin gestured wildly out the window and pulled over to the side of the road. I followed suit, wondering what was wrong.
As I got out of the car, I heard Katie saying, a bit anxiously, “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” She told me afterward she thought it must be either a broken axle or a dying animal.
Kevin got out and ran across the road. “Did you see it?” he called back to me.
Across the road was a giant mushroom cluster. Kevin picked it up. “I think it’s a hen-of-the-wood!”
A hen-of-the-wood! I couldn’t believe he had spotted it from a moving vehicle.
When I got a close look at it, I thought it probably wasn’t a hen-of-the-wood, but it had a similar structure and it smelled very good. I was cautiously optimistic.
Katie was overtly pessimistic. “That’s poison. I’m not eating that,” she said. “Where’s the dying animal?”
We took it home and looked it up. Figures that, just days after I write about my mushroom identification problems, I find one that looks exactly like the pictures in the books. This was clearly a black-staining polypore and absolutely edible. We’ll eat it tomorrow, after Katie goes home.