Thursday, 23 August 2007

dulse et decorum est -- NOT

And now to the weird snack section of our program. who out there has heard of dulse?

Me neither, until last week when a mento of mine (I do some mentoring through Humber College. I ment. I am the mentor and they are the mentos) was having trouble giving me a visceral sense of her character's home town in Nova Scotia. I want to be able to smell the place, I told her. I want to taste it.

My mento asked if I had ever had dulse. No, why? I said.

Because that is the smell and taste of my childhood.

(Our first sidebar today deals with the history professor who used to fire off a pistol at the start of his section on the French revolution. As the smoke eddied around the classroom, he told the startled students that they were smelling the Napoleonic era. My own medieval history prof, quoting this story, threatened to bring in a bag of pig dung and throw it around the class to give us a smell of the middle ages.)

Anyway, my mento sent me some dulse in the mail. It's a plant. It comes in a baggy like, oh, basil, say. Flat leaves. Eat some, she said in her letter. It's an acquired taste, but no one has been able to describe it. There's the sea, and dirt, and fish, and salt. Some say they can taste blood in the leaves.

(Second sidebar. Great title, eh? Blood in the leaves. Could be an autumnal massacre. Or a tea drinker's poisoning. Or a bookseller's stabbing.)

So part of me was wondering why, if this is a rough description, anyone would want to eat dulse? Blood? Salt water? Why would you want to learn to like that? Cigarettes and martinis make you look cool, and a bit like James Bond. But there's no high from seaweed, and I don't know any cool kids or superheroes who eat it. (All right, maybe Aquaman.)

To conclude, I had some dulse, and ... I'm hooked. That's right, I'm a dulse head. I have a sea monkey on my back. A real (davy) jones for the stuff.

Kidding. Sorry, mento of mine. Dulse tastes like death. To get a sense of the flavour and texture, imagine a combination of low tide and human skin. Mmm mmm good.

Not that we needed any more evidence, but this confirms my belief that Maritimers are strange and heroic folk.


Marilyn said...

My daycare kids like dulse. They are strange. I don't mind the thin little sheets of seaweed that are sold as snack food in Chinatown, but dulse is heavy and dark and tastes like dried up sink mould.
The kids are very particular about the terms: dulse and seaweed, and if I mix them up, I am banished from the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Dirt? You bit down on a shell, didn't you? I warned you about that. I love your description and you're right about not looking cool. I notice that I have a habit of pulling it apart, looking for the soft pink stuff, maybe a hit of salt. I look like a grooming monkey or at best, a racoon cleaning off soemthing dropped in the dirt. Guess dulse will have to remain a sweet mysterious pleasure of the strange and heroic. I can live with that.
the "mento".