Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tomales Bay (West Marin, Part 3)

On Tuesday, E convinced me that it would be "fun" to kayak across Tomales Bay and sold it to me as a food adventure by adding that we could have the destination of the Hog Island Oyster Company in mind. I am skeptical of sports-related activities like kayaking. I want so badly to be cool and composed enough to enjoy them but I can't stop thinking about all the horrible things that might go wrong when doing them.

In the end, I decided to try it if only to compromise and do something that I knew my new hubby would like to do. We drove to Marshall, where we were outfitted in wetsuits and PFDs (personal flotation devices). The man who worked at the rental company recited from memory in the quickest and most monotonous way what we should do if our kayak capsizes. Then, after hearing him move his lips but not having registered a word of the light-speed lecture, we were paddling away from shore.

This is the bay not the ocean. Nevertheless, I've heard that there is a white shark breeding ground in Bodega Bay, just 20 miles north of where we were. So, as soon as we were on the open water, I kept scaring myself into believing that a shark would jump up from under our kayak and frighten us into the water. Or, we'd accidently capsize on the waves (which seemed really unlikely given the sturdiness of the vessel), and Jaws would be near, ready to snap up a limb or two. Even if a shark wasn't loitering near our kayak, the sheer thought of falling into the bay was terrifying.

Any which way you cut it, I'm a fear type. It's my job to worry about the worst case scenario. In times of daily stress, it can be a desirable trait. I'm always thinking of the best hour to go shopping, the most time-efficient way of driving to a location, or any of the many items that we might accidently leave behind before boarding a plane. I am what in other cases would be a "good planner." I don't cope well with letting go of control.

I sweated the three hours that we maneuvered about on Tomales Bay. It was good to have the distraction of a paddle, a repetitive activity to take one's mind off the negative. I will also be the first to say that it was a stunning place to be. We paddled to the opposite shore (West), where we came upon beaches accessible only by the Bay. They were filled with sparkling white sand and lots of trees. The sun was out, no fog, and the winds were very low. It was a beautiful day.

We had a quick snack of fruit and cheese on one of the beaches. We then paddled further toward the ocean--watch my fear-meter creep upwards--where we approached a beach filled with cows grazing. There were only five or six of them near the beach's edge, all black with white spots. What a serene sight! Then, we turned around, paddled to another little beach, where three abandoned buildings were once inhabited by a man who had an artist's colony. We've yet to get the full story on this.

Finally, the Marshall shore beckoned us back. We asked the guy who had originally sent us off about the Hog Island Oyster Company. He said that it was fine, but we'd have to shuck our own oysters. Instead, he emphatically recommended the oyster bar sitting only yards away from the rental place.

The Marshall General Store and Oyster Bar has a funny collection of things. On the one hand, it is stocked with a few high-end items such artisan goat cheese and local breads by the Brickmaiden. It also has a small (not gourmet) candy selection and other useful household items. They have no running water (talk about feeling like you're in another country), and they make delicious deli sandwiches. Then, of course, there's the renowned oyster bar.

We sat down in the sun-porch near the oysterista (is there such a word?) and put in our order. There's an expansive porch on the back side of the building, too, where other oyster-loving folks sat waiting for their food while looking out upon Tomales Bay. E got us a beer each, and we suckled on them until the oysters arrived. Three barbecued, three Rockefeller, and a half-dozen raw oysters. We gobbled the raw down with generous amounts of lemon juice and hot sauces (they stocked many types). The barbecued and Rockefeller arrived a beat later, and before we knew it, they too were gone. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Rockefeller, we weren't either. They are oysters chopped and mixed with spinach, onions, herbs, butter and bread crumbs. They are then put back into the shell and baked.

Just as we begin to list our favorites--raw first, bbq second--our oysterista brought a set of mussels in Thai green curry sauce to the table. "A gift for being newlyweds," he said. The mussels were so delightful that they melted instantly in my mouth like a tender mushroom. In addition to the texture to the bite, there was the refreshing feeling of eating from the spring of life, the ocean. The curry only egged the flavor of the mussel on, reminding us of the evolution of life on earth. I thought of all the time we have traveled through the lineage of food to get to the perfect combination of flavors embodied in the curry. Many years of trials to bring such taste explosions to life. All of this paired simply with something foraged from the water, not altered by human meddling.

What can I say? We grew closer to something simultaneously elemental and evolved, and all my fears of falling endlessly into the bay evaporated.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger نیکی said...

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very nice picture by the way.



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