Sea Urchin Soup
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It was a summer Saturday on some picturesque beach in Vineyard Sound, empty but for the windswept dune grass, a few friends, and a scattering of towels and coolers. We waded in from our boat, floating supplies behind us; cracked open some beers, and got down to business: We had a couple of lobsters to grill. Not just any lobsters, but ones we pulled from traps only 15 minutes earlier.
In a decade’s worth of visits to dear, seafaring, adventure-loving friends (and their boat) on Cape Cod, I’ve experienced my fair share of hunting and gathering from the sea: fishing, clamming, crabbing, even digging up the occasional scallop. Three years ago I filleted my first fish, kneeling in a bikini at the shoreline, bleeding the striper into the water while the grill warmed on the beach behind me. I’ve learned how extra sweet this food tastes when you’ve worked to hunt it down, when it’s eaten in the sand just yards from the sea from which it came.
On this day, however, lobsters were our target, and while we’ve had success with our friends’ lobster pots in the past, today we’d have to work for it. The water was shallow and the currents iffy; our captains didn’t want to bring the boat close and pull up the traps if they were empty. Someone had to go out there with a snorkel and mask and investigate. Raluca, a fellow castaway under the Cape’s spell, volunteered first, and off she went, kicking her way along the trap line, diving under and surfacing with a big thumbs-up. Lobster! She’d seen a flash of orange claw. I watched, feeling an itch to get in the water, touch the mucky bottom, see for myself the cage hidden among the weeds and murk. I’d been dry for too long on this boat! So I took the equipment and dove in. Followed the line, dove down to the eerily quiet cage, and saw—absolutely nothing. Turns out there were two lobsters in there, but visibility was terrible and they hid, unmoving, during my brief inspection. Fortunately, we pulled the traps up anyway, and I was satisfied having gone through the motions.
Now, wet and salt-skinned, we presented the crustaceans to our beachside friends; one of our captains butterflied them on a rock, quietly thanking them first for their lives, as is her custom. Onto the grill they went, quickly inflaming to a bright orange hue. These lobsters were so fresh and sweet, it would’ve been a shame to dunk them in butter and mask their pure sea taste. Lacking plates, we sat in the sand and passed the meat around, exulting in that rare kinship between friends, nature, and her sweet, sweet bounty.
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