In her 2009 best seller, “Handle With Care,” Nantucket Book Festival featured author Jodi Picoult reminds us to focus on things we are certain of. “I closed my eyes, she says, and curled my fists around the things I knew for sure: That a scallop has thirty-five eyes, all blue. That a tuna will suffocate if it ever stops swimming. That I was loved.” On Nantucket, especially during these uncertain times, those of us who live here tend to gravitate to activities where there are things we can count on.
Every October begins recreational scallop season on the island. Although the size of the harvest is never predictable, one thing’s for sure…from Pocomo to Monomoy to Madaket, there are thousands of succulent bay scallops that will end up in multiple bushel baskets. Scalloping is a serious sport for many on the island, with entire families decked out in waders and dive gear arriving at the location of choice at exactly low tide to maximize their efforts. For some it’s a social event enjoyed with local neighbors or old college buddies, all working together to fill the team quota. For still others, it’s a rite of passage…a tradition passed down through generations. An opportunity to teach the younger family members not only to appreciate the delicate candy like flavor of the scallops, but to truly understand the importance of preserving the clean harbor waters.
Nantucket is blessed with an abundance and variety of shellfish, from oysters to clams to the little bay scallops that command their own harvest season. They’re a fascinating breed. A little research indicates all scallops might not have exactly 35 eyes, but each one does have multiple eyes and in fact those beady little beauties are all blue. Their trademark “scallop” shaped shells give the impression they’re an elegant and refined breed, but drop a few dozen of these little rascals in a bushel basket together and they start spitting, hissing and snapping up a storm.
Scalloping truly is one of the many activities that unites the people of Nantucket. There are conversations from the pharmacy, to the post office, from a Main Street bench to Cisco Brewery about how the season is going and which local is touting the biggest haul. Almost more than the scallops themselves, it’s the process that entices us. The ability to wander into the harbor waters chest deep with fellow islanders and take in the spectacular topography of the island from off-shore is mesmerizing. It truly is remarkable what happens when we embrace an opportunity to inventory what we can count on: church steeples dotting the horizon, ferries coming and going throughout the day, the Brant Point lighthouse proudly standing to greet island guests.
Nantucket offers residents and visitors countless opportunities to not only experience all she has to offer, but to truly celebrate it. There are multiple events on the calendar this fall from theater productions to turkey plunges, Halloween parades and Christmas Stroll festivities. And of course, scallop season continues for several more months. So grab your rake, bushel basket and a few friends and come spend some time foraging for dinner. Don’t forget to turn around, look around and let the beauty of the island make your day.
Count on it.
- 18 Oct 2011 Nantucket Scalloping Just when I thought I had experienced all the “wow moments” this little island has to offer I unearthed a new one. I found myself giddy as a school girl last weekend as I snagged my first scallop. There’s been some friendly buzz around the island the past few weeks as recreational scallop season kicked... Continue Reading
- 25 Sep 2012 The Nantucket County Fair Fall is in the air here on Nantucket. The change in temps brings with it the anticipation of a new season of island festivities. Whaler football games scallop season and the annual Nantucket County Fair. I attended my first ever island fair out in Tom Nevers last weekend. I was reminded what the country group... Continue Reading