Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Circle of Life at Slaughter Beach

We're home now. The holiday is over. But there's enough sand in the laundry basket to remind me of what a great time we had at the beach.

I want to tell you a little something about my friend Kian over at Red Cook. A warning, in case you all become friends with him - if he's at your house, and your kid's goldfish dies in the bowl, it's better you don't mention it to Kian because while you're considering how to embark on the inevitable "circle of life" talk you're going to have to have and your kid is drying her tears and writing the eulogy you'll all be saying over the toilet bowl, Kian will be in your kitchen gutting and grilling the little guy and serving it to you with a glass of good chardonnay.

The man will cook anything. I have two examples for you just from this holiday weekend. And the pictures to prove it. Here we go:

This is Kian eating. You can't miss him because he's Chinese. The other one is Warren.

Warren is Kian's partner and he spent a good deal of time this weekend trolling the shallow waters for little crabs, anemone and any shells that might house small edible vermin and then, like a small child with a fistful of weeds, held them up to Kian expectantly in the kitchen, with an expression of pure joy and then, Kian, like the dutiful Mommy, smiled and whipped Warren's scavenging into some kind of gourmet treat.

Seriously, if it wasn't bolted to the ocean floor or covered in barnacles, Warren was dragging it into the kitchen. This time, Warren brought home "Conch".

Or as I like to call it, "Slug".

And so Kian, like he was in some episode of "The Next Food Network Star" whipped up Conch Fritters. Because this is what you do when life gives you Conch...you make Fritters.

David liked the fritters (he made a small carb concession here, holiday and all that)and then he made the mistake of asking me what they were made of and I told him all about Warren with his pants rolled up around his knees and wearing his funny hat, pulling conch shells out of the shallow ocean and how Kian yanked the slugs out of the shells, all wiggling and screaming, and chopped them up finely and how they were kinda like escargot. And it was a nice story, I thought.

And I was just getting to the fritter part of the story when David made the biggest vomit face I've ever seen and said, "You have to tell me what's in these things!" and then he wiped the inside of his mouth with a baby wipe a lot.

When dining with Kian it's always best to not ask any questions, just eat.

I took some pictures of the Conch Fritters, but I think Kian downloaded them onto his computer and not mine, so go to his site and bug him to post the recipe and the pictures. They look completely normal and yummy, if you don't know what's inside them.

And then, there's the shark...

The kids get credit for finding this guy dying in the shallow waters in front of the beach house, but really, I found him first, and me and this other guy picked him up and tried to help him swim away, but the poor little guy had a huge hole in his head and he was scraped down the back of him and as a group of kids, fishermen, curiosity seekers and casual onlookers gathered around him, like they were watching a terrible accident on the highway, it was pretty clear he was on his way out.

Here are the gawkers, the lot of 'em. You'd think they had just gotten back from hunting the big cats in Africa.

This is the part where Lucy got all melancholy and I had to explain to her that the shark was dying and that we were going to bring him out to sea and let him die peacefully and that other fish would eventually eat him and this was "the circle of life" and then, Lucy seemed satisfied with this and noted that the shark was dead just like Murphy The Cat and maybe Murphy The Cat and the shark would be friends. But she wanted to stop looking at the shark and so we walked back to the house.

This was all fine until someone happened to mentioned to Kian who was chopping up slug in the kitchen, that a shark, so fresh that it was still in the throes of death, had washed ashore. It was like we had mentioned a 50% off sale at Williams Sonoma, because Kian dropped his butcher knife and was off down the beach like a shot and the next thing you now, he's fishing dying shark out of the water and contemplating shark steaks for dinner.

Look at him. He's butchering the fish in his mind.

This is when Lucy starts to wimper. Not cry exactly, but she's looking pretty sad and confused. And I think if she sees the fish being gutted, it'll send her into a life of veganism and because I don't want her to be palate-less and make people cook her special meals at dinner parties (Just joking vegan readers. I love ya.) I decide she's not ready to see "the circle of life" up close, so she goes to play on the beach with Edie and David and I shoot pictures of the slaughter in the kitchen, which is funny 'cause we are on Slaughter Beach at the time.

Slaughter. Get it?

Anyhoo, here is Kian disemboweling the shark. It is in fact dead at this point, so please do not call PETA. Thank you.

Here is the shark's decapitated head. Nice.

All meat. Nice and clean.

The stink of all the organs being pulled out of the body has subsided a bit, so now the gawkers come back to the kitchen to watch the easy part of the butcher.

Light weights.

This is where Kian gets all excited and starts talking about how "fresh" the fish is and putting it to his nose and smelling it and passing the carcass around the room asking people to take a whiff.

To which I reply, "Yes Kian, it's fresh. It was alive like two minutes ago."

Yeah, so, Kian actually saves the shark head for broth. You gotta have a mighty big pot for that thing, don't ya think?

If you were wondering, I did not actually eat the shark steaks, although I believe they were grilled with a little salt, pepper and olive oil, and as I hear it, they were pretty good.

Call me a wuss, but I just couldn't eat Murphy The Cat's friend in front of my kid.

xxoo YM

PS Kian, I love ya, but I'm not letting you anywhere near the aquarium...



Unknown said...


Love ya!

Anonymous said...

Murphy the Cat probably would have.

ib said...

Poor Lucy.

Anonymous said...

I want Kian as a neighbor. Does he plan on moving to Amish country any time soon?

My kids got a similar lesson when our dogs ate the juvenile chickens we'd had for all of 4 hours. After crying for 3 minutes, my second born (of 5) sons said, "Well, at least my dogs got a treat."


Jo said...

I hate the disrespect Chinese people have for animals. They eat anything. It probably didnt cross this guys mind that the shark was dying from 'something' normally we try not to eat animals that are 'dying' as you dont know what from. Watch the neighbourhood dogs, we had these people living next door to us and they actually ate their dogs puppies, hella cheap way to live. I will continue to sign the petition against them on facebook every opportunity.

Annie H said...

I feel a lot of ethnocentrism coming from the comment above me. I cringed when I read this post because I don't eat meat and that shark is pretty cute but cultures are cultures.

krysta said...

see right there is what makes america great... you can eat fresh shark on the fourth of july and someone else can be racist enough to tell you how much they disagree with it! to each his own!

Christine said...

Ha! See I would do the conch, but I would be afraid that the shark was dying because it was sick and therefore probably wouldn't have eaten it either. However, had someone line caught that sucker, hell yeah I'd have eaten it.

But then again I have harvested snails with my uncle at the beach and then watched him eat them (cooked). I like escargot, but these, they were no escargot. They were nasty.

Christine said...

Dude, I just read the comment above...and *cringe*. I wouldn't have eaten the shark either, but it has nothing to do with respect for a culture.

Melissa said...

I second Krysta's comment. ;)

I love both your posts Kim. This is what the holiday should be about. Your pictures filled me with joy and curiosity. Thank you. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your comments. I appreciate your candor, passion for food and unflagging honesty.

Instead of speaking directly to comments, I just want to leave you with this thought...

Humanely killing your own food, looking in the eyes of the creature that will later be a hunk of meat on your table is as close to respecting animals, food and the earth as you can get. (Unless you are a vegetarian, which I think animals would argue, is better for them all the way around)

But as meat-eaters go - it is far more humbling and awe-inspiring to be a part of the process when it presents itself, than buying your fillet wrapped in brown paper from the butcher (as I always do) and never thinking in that moment that it once had a life, blood running through it's veins, thoughts and desires. That it lived.

Watching Kian turn this once living creature into steaks, just as my father turned deer into venison steaks in our garage, makes me remember what meat really is and it makes me a better and more humble omnivore.

There. I'm done now. Really, this conversation is a good one to have. You guys rock.


Anonymous said...

Oh! and another thing...

I get the whole "cringe" factor...Me too.

It is hard to eat something after you have seen it alive in your hands. Hell, after we tried to save it's life.

And yes, I did also have some health concerns about the meat since I didn't know what the water was like in this area and with all my breastfeeding yadda yadda...

So, yeah, I get the cringe thing...
That's what makes the process so damn humbling and nearly emotional.

xxoo Kim

Anonymous said...

*at the risk of sounding immature...* Hey, Joanne Rasmussen.I'm Chinese. And I can tell you that I've never eaten dog, snake, shark (even shark fin), bird's nest, or any of those foods Chinese people are infamous for eating. But you know what? I've eaten horribly maltreated cows, pigs, and chickens. You know, the stuff we buy from the supermarket, the meat that is probably pumped full of steroids and was probably a diseased animal. Eating shark right from the beach is a much better decision than buying meat wrapped in plastic from the supermarket. C'mon, lady. You couldn't have NOT realised that as you were writing your comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anonymous. That is exactly the perspective we needed to hear.


Jo said...

Hi Anonymous, I agree with you wholeheartedly on the 'battery farming' issue. "I" am against all forms of battery farming and only indulge in free range product for the sake of my family's health. I still stand by what I said earlier because my experience is a real one that I have personally witnessed ie the puppies being eaten next door? Interestingly, I see you all think "racist" LOL because I come from South Africa! And just for the record, here in SA we witness some horrific cases of animal abuse. I wonder if it would have been mentioned if you hadn't had access to my blog if I had remained anonymous. Bring on the hate speech.

Anonymous said...

Kim, I so appreciate your perspective and witty writing. I apologize for my ire, but I also must address Joanne Rasmussen's comment. Although she may have some legitimate points to make, the problem is that her comment starts off with a broad stereotype regarding Chinese people, which will turn most people off from understanding what she's trying to say. I am blessed enough to have a diverse group of friends, and we all know enough to stay away from painting people of one race with one color, so to speak. Please, Joanne, think before you write. Words are powerful and can hurt deeply. Let's stay away from hate speech.

Anonymous said...

Peggy, thanks for your thoughtful and eloquent response.

I agree that making generalizations about a group of people is dangerous and I knew thoughtful readers like yourself would speak your mind on that point.

Of course, I don't agree with Joanne about her generalizations about the Chinese, but I am happy she was honest and not afraid to share her viewpoint and experience with us.

That said, what I hope happens is that Joanne questions those stereotypes a bit after this discussion and the rest of us get more comfortable listening to people who do not mirror our points of view.

Peggy, thanks for throwing your hat in the ring and being a voice of reason. I appreciate it so much.

xxoo YM