When I was a kid, my dad dived for marine specimens with an outfit called Pacific Biomarine for a living. At the time, abalone were plentiful along the California coast, and he would often fill up his goodie bag with wild abs as he worked. We ate abalone several times a month, though I of course had no concept how lucky we were. Dad brought me an ab iron of my own for my sixth birthday. I remember that his friend at a machine shop forged it out of slab, and that it had a glittery purple bicycle hand grip.
Today, wild abalone populations have dwindled to almost nothing, thanks to a combination of factors — human overfishing, hungry otters, and the fact that abalone squirt their sperm into open waters hoping it will land somewhere useful (talk about getting lucky!); so when populations decline, the odds of this accidental fertilization succeeding drop precipitously.
You can still buy abalone, but you probably won’t find it at your local fish market. A handful of abalone farms raise them under protected conditions, and charge $20 – $50 / pound — an endangered delicacy. Dad’s coming to town this weekend, so I decided to throw him an abalone feast as a belated father’s day gift. Called Monterey Abalone to place an order, got to talking with the guy who picked up the phone, and it turned out that his dad was my dad’s boss at Pacific Biomarine, back in the 60s and early 70s! So this guy and I probably played together as little kids a few times, though we didn’t remember each other. Amazing how threads come together.
So a box of live abs will arrive this Friday, and the question of the week is how to prepare them. There are a lot of great recipes out there, but somehow I don’t think we should mess with tradition. Tenderize, a real light breading, a bit of garlic salt, and flash fry in olive oil (or butter, if memory serves).
Dad’s gonna flip when he hears the story.