Wednesday, December 10, 2008

always something new - percebes!

This morning in the waiting room of a doctor (a consultation for possible sleep apnea), I read an article on percebes. Isn't it interesting how we are always forced to desperately seek a publication that might offer us some level of entertainment in waiting rooms across America?

Magazines I never knew existed seem to be de riguer. My dentist, as an example has many issues of "Fighter Plane" magazine strewn throughout his spacious and otherwise tidy waiting room. Does he actually have an interest in fighter planes? Is he trying to show us that he has a bold, dashing side that we never glimpse in his white, pressed smock, as he tries to keep HIS side of an otherwise banal conversation going. (I can only mutter sounds to signify agreement as his instruments are banging around in my gaping mouth.)

Do these obscure magazines of highly specialized interests (translation: of no interest to the normal or sane person) come in some bulk package rate approaching "free?" Can't my exorbitant bills help subsidize some interesting literature? I feel very, very hostile when I am forced to feel grateful for finding a dog-eared copy of "O" magazine in the vacant seat next to me.

One byproduct of such magazine selections is the material you find yourself reading and the discovery that you can in fact, find amusement and genuine interest in articles you would normally ignore. The world continually offers us wonder no matter where we are or how old we are. Which brings me back to percebes!

In essence, a percebes is a goose barnacle. Percebes have long been a delicacy in Spain, but have recently found favor in some of the elite restaurants in the United States and other countries. What is particularly fascinating about percebes is the difficulty associated with harvesting them. Percebes are limited to certain regions in the world. They survive by clinging on rocks that are continually battered by violent waves which helps force food their way. Unfortunately this results in a very dangerous harvesting environment. Each year at least one death and multiple injuries befall the harvesters in Spain (where the acknowledged BEST percebes can be found).

The "Percebes" (yes, the harvesters are referred to by the object of their hunt) often work in pairs where they have 2.5 hours before the arrival of low tide and 1 hour after low tide to do their work. They have a rope affixed to some stable outcropping to enable them to lower themselves to the precipitous rocks below which are surrounded by boiling water. Their eyes are more often fixed upon the waves below them as unpredictable swells can easily overtake them. These swells originated miles away, so they are aware that the rhythm of the ocean can be a deceptive thing. They are attuned to subtle changes in the waves that can signal an approaching swell. They must react instantly and scurry about the rock face as the advanced warning does not afford them much time. Did I mention the best harvests occur during the winter in Spain? Thus the waters are even more volatile.

Strict limits are imposed upon the Percebes and their daily catch. 8 coast guard boats continually patrol the shoreline where the best harvests occur.

According to the author of the article, the first time he had percebes he was less than thrilled by their appearance. He described his bowl as having the appearance of a collection of dinosaur toes. However, when he bit off the head and sucked the insides out of the shell, he claims it was one of the "purest" tastes of the Atlantic Ocean he had ever experienced. In Spain, incidentally, a typical bowl of soup adorned with 7 or 8 percebes goes for over $50. As I mentioned, percebes can be sampled at some of the finest restaurants in the United States on an occasional basis.

I share this information here because I am still delighted and amazed that the world contains many things we do not know. No matter how old we are, it still offers us the same sense of wonder we felt as infants when we took our first steps. As adults we can still revel in these new discoveries, and now we can even dance.

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