I left my reader (I hope to acquire more!) as Nick and I were setting forth on a Peche a Pied experience. Literally this means Fishing on Foot which is a good description of what you do, roaming over a shore, picking up bits and bobs of marine life that are edible to the best of your knowledge. The shore we went to on Wednesday is at the Pointe de Saire and is an exposed headland north of St Vaast. There is a tidal race round the point itself which makes it a rather inhospitable environment for a lot of marine invertebrates. Worms however do very well and Nick spent a profitable hour digging the sands at the edge of the outflowing river channel and bagging himself a selection of juicy ones to use as bait when he goes fishing on Sunday. He’ll use them to fish from the seabed, some flatfish would be nice…………. The tide went out a very long way as the pictures attest. The bay empties out completely and you can walk across to Ile de Tatihou over an expanse of sand flats or over the causeway through the oyster park which is closer to town. I collected a bag of shell drift which looked interesting and I didn’t find much in the way of ingredients for a risotto or pasta dish whilst Nick was doing his digging but we did spy a shore further north on which we could see figures moving about so resolved to investigate that shore the following day.
In the morning Nick started painting the garage interior now the building works are complete. He is going to turn it into a nice workshop. I’ll get the former workshop behind it as a lab. In the meantime shell-sorting activities happen at the end of the kitchen table and I worked through my sample of shellsand, finding a few small treasures. After lunch I did some computer stuff then at just after 4 we left the house to go to the shore by Tour Dranguet just out of the village of Jonville. It is a lovely mixed shore of sands, gravels, rock outcrops, lagoons and pools. The shell life is very varied and we spent a very happy couple of hours plodding through the shallows picking up and raking for bivalves and admiring the colourful life colonising the undersides of rocks and overhangs. I found several small cowries in amongst the sponges and lots of painted top shells which I think are two of Britain’s most attractive shells to find on the shore. There were quite a few elderly French men digging with their trident-like forks for razor clams. They seem to ignore all the other bivalves and just focus on their quarry. We soon had more than enough for one sitting of risotto. In my eagerness I’d managed to get my welly interiors wet so was very happy to remove these and empty them when we got back. Washing and sorting our haul took a bit of time and during food preparation time there was a ring at the door. It was the razor clam lady who goes round door to door selling her surplus for 8 Euros a kilo from her bicycle basket. Christine says we should not pay more than 5 Euros but I think she is winding us up! Anyhow notwithstanding we are groaning with shellfish to cook we bought a kilo as they will keep till tomorrow and they are absolutely delicious grilled with butter and garlic (like most things!) and we want the razor clam lady to keep up her deliveries. It is only when the tides are exceptionally low that there is an abundant harvest, twice a year for a couple days only.
So I made the risotto and steamed a third of the clams which I stirred into the rice for a few minutes. We ate this with another improvised dish as an accompaniment – slow-cooked mixed beans with coriander and ginger. Half way through our meal Anne the Doc’s wife popped in to deliver some of the eggs they had been given, gift of a grateful patient! Francois says if he is offered just one, he just cracks it open and swallows it on the spot!
We have had two wonderful days on the shore and it is a good while since I visited such a lovely shore as today’s. This brings our low-tiding to an end until two week’s time when some Conchological Society friends come out to spend a few days shelling. And now I must go and steam the rest of the clams to freeze.