It started with an idea. I had seen my father cook. And he was good. I watched Three’s Company religiously, and Jack Tripper was a dope chef who got all the girls(even if only for one episode at a time). So as I was both my father’s son and notoriously clumsy, there was no reason why I shouldn’t be able to pull off a linguine and clams dinner. Right?
Now there were a few flaws in this theory of mine. For one, the closest I’d ever come to working with seafood was pointing to the kind of clams my Mom and I bought my Dad for his birthday a few years before (when I was like…7) Two, as I was about 11 and still limited to cooking out of cans, I had no recipes. But three, (luckily for me) my Dad was willing to help out.
We set a dinner date for Mother’s Day. Our guests: The Madre and my Grandma Sally.
We settled on scallops with minced clams and some onions cooked in a white wine and butter sauce over linguine. Pop went through every step with me, guiding my hand through the process. What seemed like it took hours was in reality done in under 45 minutes from start to finish.
I remember lighting the candles myself and serving the plates as the ladies in my life sat at that the circular rawed iron table with the glass top that now sits on my father’s porch. We looked on from the breakfast bar built in the apartment wall, watching them savor every bite. My Grandma Sally talked about that meal for years. At 90, if prompted, she can still speak about it today.
Lately I’ve been asking myself how I fell out of love with the scallop. I still eat them of course, but haven’t featured them in a meal since that day. Perhaps I am haunted by decades of making them the last thing to finish on chain restaurant seafood platters. Maybe it’s the way they’ve been prepared over the years that has left me wanting. But today I’ve decided to do something about that.
My next project here will be doing something with seared scallops. Of course garlic and butter will be involved but I’m thinking of doing them loaded with cayenne and black pepper in a risotto. Perhaps I’ll cook them in a champagne and cream sauce. Or maybe I’ll broil them in whiskey and serve them in lathered crispy goodness with a nice sweet teriyaki.
When it’s done, whatever it is, I want to feel like that first-timer boy I left behind all those years ago, made anew by the combo of art and science that is the joy of cooking. Rebirth with fork, blade and pure satisfaction.