…or, what to bring to your next holiday party.
Deciding what to bring to any party can be downright difficult. Most of us have a go-to item, something as simple as a party-sized bag of salt and pepper Kettle chips. For many, it presents an immediate irritant each and every time you click yes to an Event Brite invite. We aspire to contribute something different and delightful but come up short.
Why not opt for radishes? While this may sound unbefitting for a party of any occasion, I’m willing to bet you success should you choose this route. Allow me to let you in on a little secret.
A few weeks back, I was over at Fish’s house and had just returned from a morning bike ride only to find a few of his friends cleaning horseneck clams on the back porch. Apparently there was a party in the works. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever witnessed the cleaning of horsenecks but it’s not a sight for the prudish. The water was the color of sewage. Karen, Anthony and Barry’s fingernail beds – laced with sludge – were utterly ghastly. And the clams? Well…honestly I’d never seen anything more phallic in my entire life.
Picture a clam the size of a small palm with a long (six inches plus) slimy phallus protruding from the shell complete with a uh…with a crown of some sort. Fish’s friends were picking away and pulling back at the black layer of skin that enveloped the flesh colored tube and no one was saying a thing. There was shucking. There was cutting of the lip from the edge of the shell, and the separation of the muscle from the clamshell. And there was the severing [gulp] of the neck.
“I’m from Maine and I’ve never seen horsenecks before,” I commented. “Where’d you get them?”
“These are from Bodega Bay,” Karen answered. “We got up at 4 am to go digging. We’ve been planning it for months.”
Anthony, Barry and Fish went on to tell me about the finer art of horseneck clam digging and the fact that you are limited to ten per person. Twenty horsenecks, it is said, are enough for a small feast. But I was still awed that no one seemed affected by the fact that they were all fondling what could only best be described as a scraggy, limp, penis. I sat and watched for a while, acutely aware that I was suffocating. Was I the only one seeing this? Were Fish’s Berkeley grad pals so sophisticated that such a sophomoric analogy was too far beneath? Were they sexually stunted? Was I sexually deviant?
Finally, I cracked. “They look really phallic to me,”I said, dryly.
When Fish laughed out loud I felt we’d all been granted license to breathe. The obvious had been stated, I’d been relieved of my inner turmoil and could now focus on matters that actually mattered.
“So how, exactly, do you eat them?” I asked, envisioning myself grabbing a whole handful of neck.
“You splay open the neck, cut it up in little bite size pieces and serve it like sashimi,” Karen said. “You can add soy and wasabi on the side – if you wish – just as you would with any sashimi or sushi,” she finished. “We’ll cut the muscle up, bread it, and deep fry.”
I could hardly wait.
_ _ _
It was Game 6 of the Golden State Warriors -vs- Miami Heat and a few of us were propped in front of the flatscreen. Emily and I had just returned from an impromptu grocery excursion as the party had to grown to twelve and I was troubled over what appeared to be a lack of food for all. Those horsenecks couldn’t possibly satiate this group. Emily had grabbed some chips and salsa and I, of course….well, I grabbed a couple bunches of radishes. It was the least and best of what I could contribute.
During commercials I ventured into the kitchen and started slicing the red radishes. I caught Karen looking over at me curiously. What’s she doing with those? she wondered. I positioned myself right in front of my work in order to preserve what was sure to be a jolt of ebullience.
Sliced, plated, salted, peppered and drizzled with oil, I presented a small fork to Anthony and Karen and queried, “Would you like to try some radish?”
“Yes, thank you,” Karen replied. “I’ve never seen them served like that.”
I can tell you what happened next, but I know you know where this going. “Wow, those are really good that way! What’s on them?” Karen said in astonishment. “Anthony, we need to to do that.”
That was it. I had them – right there, at hello.
Oh…and the sashimi horsenecks? They were exquisite.
_ _ _
What so few people understand is that the combination of oil and salt balance the bite of the radish. Serve it in slices. Don’t rush your prep. Take care with your presentation and you now have something special that no else is bringing to the party. And here’s the biggest rub of all. I guarantee you that people will go home and prepare radishes like that again. And that person will tell another…and so forth, and so on.
Still looking to add something to your Fourth of July party? Look no further. You cannot deny this plate will garner attention.
Here’s the procedure [if you’re not hosting but headed out] to avoid juggling your delicate little morsels en route:
What you’ll be packing:
A serving platter or two smaller serving plates
A stash of virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper [not needed if you are 100% sure these items will be avail at your destination]
The sliced radishes
[Note: Avoid using a paper plate. It’s not only gauche but the oil will soil and weaken the plate.]
Easy prep steps before leaving home:
- Select your serving platter (or bring two smaller serving plates).
- Slice up a bunch of radishes in advance, say 10-20.
- Put the sliced radishes in a covered plastic container or Pyrex bowl, with water. This keeps them crunchy and fresh.
- Bring a stash of virgin olive oil.
- When you arrive at your destination, place your sliced radishes with care on the platter(s). Never rush your radish prep.
- Salt, pepper and drizzle with oil.
- Place tooth picks on the side of the platter or next to it on a napkin.
- Without taking ownership of having brought them, sample a slice and gasp, “Oh my, those are rad! You must try them!”
- Check back now and then to refill the platter with the back-up slices. Keep the platter stocked for as long as you’re able – dependent upon the number of slices you brought.
- Intermingle and eavesdrop. When you hear people talking about the spinach dip, ask them if they’ve tried the radishes.
Happy Independence Day. #BeRadish. It’s a lifestyle.