Foraging along the seafloor of the Bay of Fundy
At low tide, the Bay of Fundy is a bounty of soggy greens and skittering crabs.
We set up our tents in the fog. Nova Scotia is famous for its gray weather, and mist subsumed the campground. On a clear day, we might see the rocky beach and grassy marshlands, but instead everything was cast in silvery light. The sun shone as only a blurry medallion, sinking toward the invisible water.
Our team had spent three breakneck days filming a documentary on the coast, and only now could we relax around a campfire. After so many interviews and phone calls, it was a particular relief to roast hot dogs and tell jokes as the logs spat sparks into the dark. At last, I stood up from the picnic table and said, "I'm going to walk along the water."
"Oh, can I come with you?" said Thanh, one of the film's public relations reps. We didn't know each other very well, and I welcomed the company. So we hiked over the pebbled rise, toward the water.
But I had forgotten why the Bay of Fundy is so famous. Our headlamps pierced the darkness, illuminating moist sand and patches of seaweed – and now I remembered that the tide was out. At low tide, the bay's water retreats for hundreds of feet, exposing clumps of coral and strands of aquatic grass. We followed our pools of light, and Thanh pointed to a hermit crab.
"Those are delicious!" she exclaimed. "If you cook them the right way, they are very good to eat."
Thanh was born and partly raised in Vietnam, and she is familiar with a variety of seafood dishes. She spied some soggy greens as well, and she explained their tasty potential in pho soup. This had never occurred to me – to gather raw ingredients from the ocean floor and boil them back home. But the Nova Scotians have done this for centuries, subsisting on seaweed (known as "dulse") as well as salmon and shellfish. The day before, during a visit to a French restaurant, an Acadian chef had even offered me raw scallops, freshly caught. The taste was plain, but I'd delighted in the firm texture.
We wandered for a while, then stopped to listen to the water. The shore was still a long way off, and the breaking waves hissed mutedly. There was a lot of blackness between us and the receded bay. I thought briefly of horror movies – how many films start with two youths ambling into the night?
"Maybe we should head back," I said.
"I think that's a good idea," Thanh agreed.
But as we turned our backs to the bay and trudged back along the sand, I felt a tinge of ennui. There was something pure about spending the midnight hour pacing the ocean floor.
Thanh and I were quiet as we stumbled toward the campfire's glow. I had lived my entire life in landlocked towns, and I had never made my own chowders or bisques from foraged sea life. So now, as we reported what we'd seen, I decided: One day, I will live by the sea.