Skip to main content

Sea Urchins, Oysters, and Selkies #FoodieReads

While we were camping in the redwoods last weekend, I brought The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M Harris with me.* 

And I read it while relaxing in my hammock one morning before we headed off to the archery range. Selkie stories aren't new to me; I remember reading them in both my Norse Mythology and my British Folklore classes in college. And, when the boys were little, The Song of the Sea* movie was one of our favorites!

photos from

Selkies are 'seal people' who are seals in the water but can come ashore, shed their seal skin and become human. Problems arise when someone steals their seal skin as that traps them in their human form on land. Harris built her story around retelling this premise and has created a novella full of curiosity, passion, young love, confusion, and betrayal.

Flora, a redheaded island girl, summons a selkie from the Grey Seal clan to shore through her tears. Then she seduces him, gets pregnant, and steals his seal skin so that he can't leave her in disgrace. "The red-haired woman smiled at him, and slipped her soft white hand in his. 'You are the son of a chieftain,' she said, 'from the islands of silk and spices. You came here on a merchant ship, carrying wares from your homeland. We met in secret, and we were betrothed without my parents’ knowledge. But now the time has come to reveal our plans, and to celebrate'" (pg. 42).

He marries her. His confusion and dismay are palpable as he struggles to figure out why he doesn't fit in. "'Have some more broth,' said Flora, spooning more of the greasy, warm food into the earthenware bowl by his side. Even the smell of it sickened him, but he was unable to say so in words. He said: 'What kind of broth is this?' Flora smiled, and said, 'Seal, of course. Grey seal, stewed in its own fat. You’ll soon get used to the taste of it. We islanders eat it all the time'" (pg. 43). Flora is as cruel as she is conniving.

Their wedding celebration also featured a plethora of seafood. "Instead, it lasted from low tide to high, then back again to low tide, and began with a dinner of many delicate courses: sour herring; cuttlefish pie; roast seal in a sea-salt crust; fricassee of whalemeat; rock oysters; sea-urchins in their shells, and to finish with, a glorious cake, shaped like a whaling-ship in full sail, with the rigging picked out in white icing and the mast in green angelica" (pg. 58). And when he joins his father-in-law on The Kraken, a whaling ship, he begins to understand what the Island Folk do to the creatures of the sea. 

This book was beautifully written and has gorgeous illustrations from Bonnie Helen Hawkins.


Though not really a foodie book, food plays a major part in conveying his confusion around his identity.  And, as I read, I longed to track down some sea urchin and oysters! "He ate almost nothing at the table, except for a couple of urchins and some oysters which, being raw, did not disgust him as did the cooked food; and though he did not touch the wine, he sat through the meal with aching limbs and a pounding headache" (pg. 59).

After watching The Hundred Foot Journey several years ago, my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf was determined to track down fresh sea urchin. Click to read How to Clean Sea Urchin and our Sea Urchin Crostini

And another uncooked seafood that we have on our table is oysters. Click to read How to Shuck Oysters and a few serving suggestions, including with a Cucumber Mignonette, in a stew (okay, that one is cooked!), and with a Pomegranate Mignonette.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Click to see what everyone else read in November 2020: here.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Jamaican Stew Peas #EattheWorld

  Here we are at November #EattheWorld event. What a year this has been! This challenge has been one that gave us some excuse for virtual travel as we've been sheltered-in-place with the coronavirus epidemic for most of 2020. So, we've been able to read about different parts of the world and create a dinner, or at least a dish, with that cuisine. This Eat the World project is spearheaded by Evelyne of  CulturEatz . Read more about  her challenge . This month, Evelyne had us heading to somewhere tropical: Jamaica. I have actually been to Jamaica, but it was almost thirty years ago...and it was just a jumping off point for the rest of our Caribbean exploration. I don't remember eating anything at all! Pandemonium Noshery: Pumpkin Rice   Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Jamaican Stew Peas  Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Jamaican Chicken & Pumpkin Soup   Palatable Pastime: Jamaican Jerk Chicken Burger   Sneha’s Recipe: Jamaican Saucy Jerk Chicken Wings With Homemade Jerk Seas

Quick Pickled Red Onions and Radishes

If you've been reading my blog for even a short amount of time, you probably know how much I love to pickle things. I was just telling a friend you can pickle - with vinegar - or you can ferment - with salt - for similar delicious effect. The latter has digestive benefits and I love to do that, but when I need that pop of sour flavor quickly, I whip up quick pickles that are ready in as little as a day or two. I've Pickled Blueberries , Pickled Asparagus , Pickled Cranberries , Pickled Pumpkin , and even Pickled Chard Stems ! This I did last night for an upcoming recipe challenge that requires I include radishes. Ummmm...of course I'm pickling them! Ingredients  makes 1 quart jar radishes, trimmed and sliced organic red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer) 3/4 C vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar) 3/4 C water 3 T organic granulated sugar 1 T salt (I used some grey sea salt) 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper Proce

#comfortfood: Jamie Oliver's Ossobuco with Bean Ragout

As one of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day Ambassadors ( I'm the Monterey #FRD2014 rep! ) I will be sent a copy of his latest cookbook - to cook from and write about. I can't wait. I do have to laugh though, because its title is  Comfort Food . And, according to a good friend:  I only make uncomfortable food . Oh, well. I can learn! To celebrate launch day - today - I'm sharing one of the recipes. Here's Jamie Oliver's Ossobuco alla Milanese recipe from his new cookbook, Comfort Food. And here's my adaptation. I typically don't eat veal, so I went to our local butcher for some lamb shanks sliced into an osso buco-style cut; but they had just sold their last shanks. Darn. But then I noticed the "never to roam" on the veal package and decided to go for it. I added in shelling beans to make a ragout and served it over wild rice instead of risotto. Also, I used lots of different herbs in my gremolata instead of just pa