A meal fit for a mermaid

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Razor clams and shrimp carpaccio at La Sirena, Cadaques, Spain.

There’s something particularly intriguing about the odder varieties of our fruits of the sea (Italian’s poetic frutti del mar is so much better than our dull ‘seafood’.) The forms seafood takes can be utterly foreign to our earthy experience: your average fish is a limbless, hydrodynamic oval; from there, things just get more gargantuan, bulbous, or monstrous. All seafood is at least a little weird for us, which makes variations on familiar foods surprising. For example, we expect this common bivalve, the clam, to be round and tiny. Instead it arrives in long, fat, oily fingers, putting us in the mind of the claws of some grotesque Halloween character, or a Freddy Kruger.

Another kind of culinary dissonance happens when transposing common preparations of foods, as between seafood and landfood. What was your first carpaccio—tuna? Your first beef carpaccio, then, becomes a strange cousin: raw cow meat. Somehow this novelty extended, for me, into shrimp. I’d never seen any member of the shellfish family in carpaccio form. Hardly mindblowing—shrimp sushi is commonplace. But it was a pleasant enough, and tasty enough, surprise.

Flavor: 3.5 / 5. The long, meaty razor clam strips have much to recommend themselves over your average clam. Traditional clams have a far-too-high effort to reward ratio with their stingy individual morsels of meat. They also, in my opinion, tend to be too soggy and sauce-logged for that reason—good for a clam pasta sauce but disappointing on their own. Razor clams pack a punch, on the other hand. Thicker, longer, and meatier than a mussel but without that chalky, spongy texture mussels have. With a little olive oil, garlic, herbs, and lemon, it’s a nonpareil seafood starter in my book.

Shrimp carpaccio is about what you’d expect, except you wouldn’t expect the flavor to be as subtle, velvety, and melt-in-your-mouth as it is. In its layer of olive oil you quickly exhaust the portion and are left wanting more, though you have to reluctantly admit that a dinner-sized portion of the stuff would be killer on the arteries.

Fun: 3 / 5. Oysters are the most fun seafood for their slurpability—razor clams have the same advantage. And, as something to look at, they are even more fun than their fancy sibling—long, sleek, a little creepy. If I were 10 years old I would have certainly tried to don the shells as monster fingers.

Funkiness: 2 / 5. As fruits of the sea go, these aren’t the weirdest nor the most strangely prepared, but it’s no hamburger.

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A meal fit for a mermaid

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