Celebrating a U.S. holiday in a foreign place is a bit odd.
There are a lot of gringos here, but the town wasn’t buzzing with the excitement that accompanies the run-up to a major holiday.
There were no huge circulars touting Black Friday deals and the markets weren’t swamped with people filling their shopping carts with all of the trappings of a huge Thanksgiving dinner.
While most Norte Americanos, as people from the U.S. are referred to here, were planning on heading over the river and through the woods to enjoy what was, for many, a four-day holiday, it was business as usual here in Mexico.
Still, as Thanksgiving rolled up on us, we were prepared.
We found a turkey at a fairly reasonable price, a nice, plump 13-pounder. Cara made arrangements with the folks at the local market to bring in frozen cranberries to make her mother’s wonderful side dish, and there was a pretty decent selection of homemade pies to choose from. The rest of the trimmings were plentiful, so no special orders were necessary.
We don’t have a TV hookup yet, which is fine, so instead of getting up early to watch the annual Macy’s parade and OD-ing on football, we slept in just a bit, then headed to the beach.
The temps had changed and we were expecting highs in the lower 80s, a perfect day to stroll along the beach at the La Ventana complex about a kilometer north of here. It is part of the complex we live in, which means our pass cards allow us entrance. Besides, we will be moving into this neighborhood of really nice condos in a month’s time, so we thought we would familiarize ourselves with the beach, which has a tidy row of palapas for shade and almost no people.
Serene and stretching as far as you could see in either direction, there were, perhaps, a handful of people roaming around the beach. It was low tide, which means the shallow breakers were a couple hundred yards out from the usual shoreline. Those who had decided to spend Thanksgiving morning on the beach were walking around in the ankle-deep little rivulets of water.
It didn’t take long until we realized they were there to gather clams.
We had heard that clamming is very popular here and that they were plentiful, but we hadn’t seen anybody actually out in the sands doing the hunter-gatherer thing.
But, there they were.
I walked up to a gentleman who had his own homemade clam rake – a trident spear attached to a length of PVC – who was digging around in the soft, damp sand.
“There are a couple of ways to do it,” he said. “You can walk around and look for a little dimple on the top of the sand and dig or you could kind of drag the rake until you hear a click when you hit one. You can also walk through the muddier sand and feel them under your feet.”
As we talked, I heard the “click” as he drug his rake along a piece of beach. He turned the sand and sure enough, there was a nice clam at his feet.
Now, Cara and I met a guy at the local swap meet last Saturday who was selling his own versions of clam rakes. He gets old, beaten-up golf clubs – the irons – and welds the three-pronged end to them. Just the right size. Unfortunately, just as we walked up to his booth, he sold his last two rakes, which he sells for 50 pesos each (about $3.50 U.S. dollars.)
The idea of gathering a few clams as an appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner was too good to pass up, so we started wandering around, looking for little dimples in the sand and feeling with our feet for hard lumps in the muddier sand.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a dimple in the sand. I bent over and clawed through about an inch of sand and came up with my first clam.
We had brought along a plastic bag with the intent of using it to store any nice seashells we might find. Little did we know we’d be collecting seashells with clam meat inside of them.
Cara walked through the puddles of water, squishing through the sand with her toes.
“Oh, I got one,” she said, pulling a nice one out of the sand.
About a half an hour later, we had three dozen clams in our bag. My back was getting angry from all the bending as I dug through the sand for clams. Sometimes, they were below the little dimples, sometimes they weren’t. It was much easier to walk through the muddier sand and feel them underfoot.
We brought them home and filled a pot with salty water to let them purge any remaining sand and grit.
About an hour before the turkey was ready for carving, Cara decided she had waited long enough.
“I want clams,” she said.
So we gave them a final rinse, dropped them into a pot of boiling water, and prepared a combination of butter, lemon juice, and garlic to dress them up a bit.
It wasn’t long before the steaming clams opened their shells.
They were ready.
And, so were we.
Oh, man, they were heavenly and a perfect appetizer.
Our backs were not terribly happy with us for all the bending and stooping, but our bellies were ecstatic. Fresh clams, are you kidding me?
I’ve also talked to a few other locals who tell me that over at the marina, you can fish off the rocks for some decent calico bass and corvina, which is often substituted for white sea bass. All you have to do is go to the fish market, pick up some squid, hook it and cast. We’ve already sampled some of the fresh bass, purchased from one of the local fish markets, and it was wonderful.
Since I’m not really into that whole “bigger fish” thing – it’s a lot of work to drag in a 60- or 70-pound tuna – I will be perfectly happy to go to the marina, catch a couple of kilos of fresh fish and stock up the freezer.
So, we’re planning on getting up early Saturday morning to get to the swap meet and purchase our clamming rakes, then head over to the beach about noon when the tide starts to go out. A nice plate of linguini and clams sounds awfully good.
As far as the fishing goes, we’re waiting for the winds to subside and the temps to remain in the 80s a bit before we cast a line upon the waters.