Cockles and mussels.....alive....alive-O

Locquirec Travel Blog

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The cockle hunting ground of Locquirec.
Molly Malone
In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty
  I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
  As she wheeled her wheel-barrow
  Through streets broad and narrow 
 Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O! 
 Alive, alive-O! alive, alive-O! 
 Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O! 
 She was a fish-monger, but sure 'twas no wonder 
 For so were her father and mother before 
 And they each wheeled their barrow 
 Through streets broad and narrow 
 Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O! 
 Alive, alive-O! alive, alive-O! 
 Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O! 
   She died of a fever, and no one could save her 
 And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone 
 But her ghost wheels her barrow 
 Through streets broad and narrow 
 Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O! 
 Alive, alive-O! alive, alive-O! 
 Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O!

 
 Up until now, the closest I'd ever come to a cockle was hearing the words to this old Irish folksong.
Louise, cockle fisherwoman extraordinnaire!
 
 
  My experience with bi-valves can be traced back to a child's Christmas memories which were steeped in the aroma of juicy, golden crusted, pan fried oysters. Since then, I've become acquainted with chewy, fried clam strips as well as the delicate flavor of tender, sauteed scallops topped with a drizzle of mango coulis on a bed of peppery arugula.  I've even developed a penchant over the past few years, for "moules frites", aka: mussles and french fries, steamed in white wine, garlic and butter.  But cockles...... they were as "foreign" to me as "bubble and squeak".
 
When Mark told me that Louise had gone fishing for the afternoon, I envisioned a scene with fishing poles and lures or even fly fishing equipment with hip waders and nets.
Louise and the tools of the trade.
 My midwestern, American upbringing hadn't prepared me for anything to do with sand, buckets or a pole with a claw at one end. I soon learned that Louise had headed off with some friends, to a section of beach, along the Breton coast, which was famous for its cockle fishing.
 
 As an interesting aside, André, Louise's husband, told us that during times of elections (as in the one tomorrow, the 7th of June) if the topic under consideration or the candidates running for office inspire no particular passion in the local citizens, they will be heard to say that they are "going fishing", which understandably excuses them from having to perform such an odious task.  I quickly discovered that "fishing" means different things to different people. 
 
As a dyed in the wool landlubber, the whole process of digging one's supper out of the sand so intrigued me that I jumped at the next opportunity to "go fishing", even though I had no legal right to avoid the upcoming election.
The thrill of the catch. Check out my colorful boots...no sand between those toes!
  Since we had to wait a few days for favorable tides, I had some time to shop for some stylish, rubber wading boots which would allow me to fit in "unnoticed" with all the other "fishermen".
 
We headed out, on a Friday afternoon, along a winding, two lane road which followed the granite rose coastline, past artichoke fields, to a spacious beach tucked into the elbow of the small town of Locquirec. We parked in the small car park which was already as full as the camping site next door. Louise collected our buckets and "fishing" tools from the back of the car as I rolled up my slacks to my knees, exposing lily white legs to the cool sea breeze. If my legs didn't give me away as a tourist then my flowered, rubber knee boots would do the trick just as well. I quickly rolled my pantlegs back down to meet the tops of my boots and followed Louise across the nearly empty beach.
As far as the eye can see.........
 Even though this was a holiday weekend there was still plenty of space available for those of us ambitious enough to walk out the low tide, to the sea's edge, in order to stake our claim to the best "fishing" spot.
 
Louise gave me a quick lesson on technique and soon I was carefully scrutinizing the wet sand, looking for the tiny hole which was the indication that a salty jewel lay breathing beneath the surface.  The pickings were lush, as each plunge of the claw into the packed sea earth revealed two and sometimes three good sized shells. I turned into a greedy child, collecting as much as I could to fill my wire basket before the opportunity passed. 
 
Most of the time we worked silently, our private thoughts filling our heads as the briny sea air filled our nostrils.
Cockles in the rough.
Occasionally, we would show each other a prime specimen from our personal collection, exclaiming over the quality and quantity of our "catch".  "The fishing wasn't as good last time," Louise said. "We've found more in half an hour than I did in an hour when I was here last," she added. 
 
I could hardly wait the two days necessary for the lucious creatures to "dégorger" any sand they might be holding, in order for us to taste the fruits of our labor. Louise had a pasta dinner planned, with our cockles as the guests of honor, swimming in a white wine and garlic cream sauce.  What a way to go........... too bad they never realized how much enjoyment they brought to a sandrat from the Arizona desert.
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The cockle hunting ground of Locqu…
The cockle hunting ground of Locq…
Louise, cockle fisherwoman extraor…
Louise, cockle fisherwoman extrao…
Louise and the tools of the trade.
Louise and the tools of the trade.
The thrill of the catch. Check out…
The thrill of the catch. Check ou…
As far as the eye can see.........
As far as the eye can see.........
Cockles in the rough.
Cockles in the rough.
Low tide at Locquirec.
Low tide at Locquirec.
We could use a little water here!
We could use a little water here!
A thoughtful place to sit and thin…
A thoughtful place to sit and thi…
Artichoke field in the area surrou…
Artichoke field in the area surro…
Our cockles, resting, as they dég…
Our cockles, resting, as they dé…
Locquirec
photo by: azsalsa