Mussel Beach

This past weekend we took a little overnight sea kayak camping trip out at Assateague National Seashore. Gusty winds to 25 mph took a little wind out of our sails, but it was perfect prep for a trip further afield that we are planning later this summer—and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. Assateague is bug-free and beautiful this time of year, with wild horses cruising through camp at full gallop (no kidding) and a sunset that seems to last a full hour.

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Sunset from Tingle Island

We are new to sea kayaking, but we learned a lot on our maiden voyage. For further practice for our summer trip, we cooked pretty light, but we happened into a lovely surprise appetizer. As the tide went out on the bay side, we did, too, and we discovered that the shoreline was teeming with mussels—just what our team needed, and an unexpected windfall.

When the backcountry kitchen isn’t about planning, it’s about ingenuity. With that in mind, sand substituted for a cleaning brush, a nesting pot substituted for a steamer, and red wine filled in for white wine.  In the end, the mussels came out perfectly. Prep was easy, and a big key was soaking them IMGA0046in fresh water for about 20 minutes to allow them to breathe out built-up sand. We also had to “de-beard” a few of them–a new term for me that triggered an endless stream of bad puns, but a task that was easily done by hand. It was twenty minutes from ocean to table, and it was a delightful little warm-up to our unremarkable boil-in-bag dinners.

While mussels were the only delicacy of the weekend, we did experiment a bit on Sunday morning with a new breakfast dish made with dehydrated hash browns and “no refrigerate” bacon that we named Old Bayside Quiche, inspired by the Old Bay IMGA0079seasoning that we sprinkled liberally while cooking.  Mixing up fresh eggs ahead of time at home and then freezing them in a ziplock bag was just the trick. While not exactly a new concept, the egg mixture works well and the resulting baggie is way less bulky than those plastic egg carrier thingies. It does make you look weird(er) when you do the prep before a dinner party at a friend’s house in Annapolis the night before—but at least I shaved beforehand, which is more than I can say about those mussels.

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