The Prairie Girl and The Live Mussels: A Tale of Anxiety and Deliciousness

The anxiety began with The Dream I had the morning the shipped live mussels were to arrive:

I am opening the huge box of live mussels, laying them out on the counter, and noticed some of them were dark green and mushy and smelled foul…in a panic I call the online order company and the lady on the phone says, “Oh the green? Don’t worry it just means some of them may have pooped themselves during shipping. The poop will cook off.” For real. This was my dream. GAH!!! The next part of the dream I leave the room for a few minutes, and our dogs have eaten all the mussels and all that is left of my husband’s birthday gift is shells on the floor and an unhinged wife. Then I wake up and wish my husband a Happy Birthday, and hope to God this was just a dream.

I decided to surprise my man for his birthday this year by ordering seafood online from the Coast to be delivered next day in time for his Day. Not entirely sure if I had just spent $140.00 for us to get food poisoning or a delicious meal to enjoy, I ordered 5 lbs of Salt Spring Island mussels, and some nice fat Sea Scallops in a brash leap of faith.

I fretted about these mussels for several days, anticipating their delivery, hoping they would be good, that none of them had shat themselves during the journey on the plane, and not having a sodding clue how to prepare them or what to do with them when I got them home. As a prairie dweller, I am completely unaccustomed to how to prepare live seafood for consumption.

The only thing I was certain of was that my husband loves fresh mussels and by golly I was going to make that happen for him, even though the last time I touched an actual live mollusk was when I was about 7 years old, when I never questioned picking up a big , manky river clam with my bare little hands (ostensibly a rock with a crack in the middle and a big booger residing inside) and putting him in a bucket to bring home as my new pet.

Initial Realization: 5 lbs of mussels is a LOT of mussels for 2 people! Luckily we found some friends to take some.


Sorting Live Mussels:

I had done a bit of online research that said – If they are open when you sort them, they are no good and dead – you want closed ones. That sounded reasonable, so I went with that and saw about 9 that were open and tossed them into a bag and sealed it and threw them away. The rest I put in bowls, gently, so as not to disturb them, covered them with damp paper towel and refrigerated them.

I then discovered to my horror (being back at work after my lunchtime mollusk-sorting) that if they are partially open a bit that they may not in fact be dead…but rather just RELAXING….Relaxing?….according to one online British fellow on You Tube who seemed to know his mussels (Funny thing about the British…they could know absolutely sodding nothing about a topic, but their accent somehow assures you that they are an expert and you feel behooved to believe them). Apparently you find out the status of your mussels by tapping the shell lightly on the counter, and if they are still alive they will gradually close their shells; then you know they are still alive and good.

It dawns on me that I have now in fact possibly murdered 9 mussels who may have been simply ‘RELAXING’….OH.MY.GOD.

The Guilt:

This horrifying realization ate away at me for the better part of the afternoon, pondering the fate of the 9 relaxing mussels (hereafter referred to as The Unfortunate Nine), and how their lives had been cut short while they were simply chilling out, and minding their own shelled business.

Who knows ..they may have gone on to do great things for those extra few precious hours in the fridge, started small mollusk businesses, or at least made some good networking contacts, made some great contribution in the world of mollusks, perhaps shared stories of life in the sea, good times that were had, the good old days when their beards were intact and not tweezed out by insensitive humans preparing them for their dinners, general chit-chat:

“How was yer plane ride, did you soil yerself then Fergus?”

Fergus, heartily offended – “I most certainly did NOT.”

“Well I can tell you Connolly absolutely DID shite himself, I was right underneath him in the box; got the full brunt of it I did.. MY plane ride was deplorable. Were you able to relax in the cargo bay then?”

“Ah no, the sodding dog barking next to me ruined it for me, and the engine was way too loud..and Bloody Leamy’s shell was crushed into me foot the entire time, the bastard wouldn’t even move a tiny bit.. Selfish he always was. Cut me circulation off completely, the fecker.” (It is a little known fact that Mollusks can be shameless potty-mouths when upset, and oddly in an Irish Accent)

Or perhaps they would have just been able to enjoy relaxing in the fridge until we were able to end their lives quickly and more humanely in the steam pot.

These questions plagued me all afternoon.

That is, until the tantalizing aroma of lemon butter parsley sautéed scallops and wine-inMussels Cooked in Winefused garlic mussels filled our home. I was finally at that point able to make peace with the untimely demise of The Unfortunate Nine, and after having a wee moment of silence for them, we thoroughly enjoyed the rest with beef tenderloin, rice pilaf and a nice Sauvignon Blanc.

Heartless? Perhaps. But damn they were tasty.



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  1 comment for “The Prairie Girl and The Live Mussels: A Tale of Anxiety and Deliciousness

  1. September 21, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Bev McKee

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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