Musseling in Maine

by Jacquelyn Oster, Class of 2019

On September 22, ten of us students from Thomas More College of Liberal Arts spent our Saturday collecting wild blue mussels in York Harbor, Maine. Our search began along the cliffs of Edward’s Harborside where dense piles of salty seaweed and decomposing marine life line the edges of a beach. We arrived as the tide began to wane and expose sparkling pools which reflected the golden hues of afternoon sunlight: there, clusters of mussels use their fibrous “beards” to remain attached to the undersides of rocks for up to fifteen years. We spent almost two hours collecting them at this location before driving to the Nubble Lighthouse where we gathered more from the side of the rock face on which we spent at least half an hour sitting, talking, and looking out at the Atlantic.

Rick Kaiser, Class of 2020, found and caught a dozen crabs, earning himself the title of “hunter,” while the rest of us were happy to call ourselves “gatherers”—of mussels, that is. Rick was also fond of breaking spontaneously into the chorus of that old Irish folk song, “Cockles and Mussels.”

Once our mission was accomplished, we enjoyed fish and chips on the outdoor deck of a local seafood restaurant in York. Warmed by beer and wool blankets, we laughed at each other’s stories and shared observations of the different places we’d been. Some of the transfer students
from Newman College in Ireland were quick to point out the quaint, wooden structures that contribute to York’s distinctive, New England character.

On Sunday evening, we cleaned and scraped from the mussels the barnacles and bits of gravel that cling to their tough shells. On Monday night, we boiled, ate, and served them in a delicious marinara sauce to other students who were studying in the lounge and cafeteria. Abigail Anderson, Class of 2019, remarked that our mussels taste better each year. Others were impressed by that taste which can only be described with respect to the ocean.

Maine law allows anyone to gather up to two bushels of mussels without a license, giving everyone, especially the students in Dr. Fahey’s Natural History course, a perfect opportunity to encounter nature up-close. When we get the chance to harvest our food, we may be amazed to find ourselves marveling at mollusks as our minds are lifted to the worship of their Creator, who inspires us with the smallest and simplest gifts of His bounty.

Please enjoy a few pictures below:

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