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Renegade Chef: My Irish bi-valves are smiling

I think creatures that live inside their shells find claustrophobia to be an on-going malady. Sure, the rent is cheap and the location conveniently close to work—but can you imagine being shut inside two shells all day long with nothing but kelp and a Phish CD to keep you occupied?

When you steam up a batch of mussels, they yawn and smile, seemingly grateful to be free from their shells and tossed with white wine and lemon butter. Oysters are angry because they are not gently steamed, but ripped open and usually swallowed raw. Oysters frown. Legend has it that divers in the deep waters of Strangford Lough can hear the scallops laughing—even after they’ve been captured. Actually, Irish scallops are known to have a good sense of humor.

Leprechauns are known to be rather humorous little buggers as well. It rains a lot in Ireland, thus creating a surplus of rainbows. It’s easy to laugh when you have a pot of gold but it’s no fun being a rich leprechaun when you can afford to eat shellfish but you’re allergic to bi-valves.

My wife is not a leprechaun, but she is allergic to bi-valves. When she was a little girl, she and her twin sister ended up in a hospital emergency room after eating scallops at a restaurant. Today, she loves seafood but is still resentful that she has been cheated out of a life filled with mussels, clams, oysters and, of course, those hilarious scallops. She has even vowed to find a seafood restaurant conveniently located near a hospital so she can disprove her childhood diagnosis.

Until then, the poor girl is going to have to settle for shrimp, lobster and king crab. Someday she’ll be able to tell the whole sorry story to her great grandchildren—that and the one about walking 10 miles to school, up-hill, both ways, in a blinding snow storm.