Sunday, June 10, 2012

The New Bronze Age

"I sometimes think that gastronomes are returning to bronze age practices.  The Apollonians had no gastronomic pretensions; nevertheless, after work in the summer, they repaired with a loaf of bread and a flask of wine to a little promontory of rock frequented by sea urchins (Paracentrotus livdus).  Picking them off the rocks underwater, they bashed in their prickle-covered shells with knife or stone, emptied them, then dipped some bread into the shell to extract their succulent orange ovaries to the accompaniment of jokes and laughter."

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Note:  Pretty brutal, I think, but honest and original, like everything in Honey From A Weed.  I came to love eating sea urchin a long time ago as part of a sushi menu, and at one point even tried (pretty fecklessly) to deal with them at home using the French device called a coupe-oursins, which purports to sheer off the shell-top, but doesn’t work perfectly, at least in my hands.  

I was surprised several years ago to read that the Japanese now purchase most of their uni from Maine fishermen because Americans haven’t discovered or don’t greatly care for the taste and texture of sea urchin.  Anyway, although sea urchin isn’t a caviar-league expense, I haven’t indulged in quite some time because it is certainly a luxury that seems out of place at the moment.  

As with most non-vegetable foods (and especially ones like oysters, which are consumed alive), I feel guilty for ever having eaten sea urchin, although I hope the uni world population will forgive me on Judgement Day and consider that they’ve gotten theirs back based on two painful episodes where I had to dig their poisonous spines out of my heel.  Even on a beautiful Sint Maarten beach, that was no picnic. 

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