Abalone Feast

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.

Music: Spaceways Incorporated :: Tapestry from an Asteroid

4 Replies to “Abalone Feast”

  1. We have large Abalone Populations here in Melbourne around Port Phillip Bay. We also have Marine National Parks which are “No Take” Zones. These Environments are a good place for Sealife to breed, and spread out into Commercial and Recreational Fishing Zones.

    Inside these Zones, however, Abalone are protected by very prohibitive Fines. Strict Regulation is the only way the Population, and hence Fisheries can be maintained.

  2. I remeber seeing a sign somewhere in the LA area that read, “No Abaloneing.”

    Abaloneing. Abaloneing. Abaloneing.

  3. Ah, the summer abalone feasts of my youth! We had no idea what a rare treat those would become. My dad and brother used to dive a few times a year when I was very little – I remember the homemade ab irons and weight belts hanging in the garage. They’d come home with tons of abalone and we’d have a backyard feast with friends and neighbors. The brick walls of the yard held stacks of shells all through my childhood, which my brother used to make groovy 70’s jewelry. I haven’t had real abalone in years.

    At Quinn’s Lighthouse in Oakland, however, you can get somethink I think they call “scalone” (since scabalone doesn’t sound appetizing) which I believe is a mixture of abalone, or abalone flavoring, pounded out with scallops, breaded and fried. Tastes close enough to bring all of the memories back.

  4. The shells! Yeah, I remember the pearlescent, multicolored abalone shells everywhere. Ash trays, nut dishes, stashed in cupboards for “when company comes” (of course they never came out even when company did come).

    When I was a teenager I had a summer job extracting abalone shells from Indian shell mounds, to be sold to tourist shops. They were preparing to build a motel on the site of the shell mound and wanted to mine any profit locked in the dirt before they started. I was naively complicit. We earned .25 for every shell. Stupid work, if you can get it.

    Mmmmm… scabalone.

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