September 18, 2012

The Dripping, Buttery Debauchery of the Shellfish Eating Ritual. ~ Mary Beth Ogulewicz

I do not like steamed clams, mussels, oysters or any other gelatinous substance passing for human consumption.

The sight reminds me of afterbirth, or a partial birth. The smell is disgusting, and the eating ritual is nauseating, reminding me of some Henry the Eighth debauchery.

My husband loves steamed clams. They are a sign of summer, a delicacy reserved for summer vacation. He orders a big plate, overflowing like a Hawaiian volcano.

Worse yet, my oldest son deigned it a priority this summer to learn to like them. He felt it was something he should acquire a taste for, and therefore committed to partaking in the ritual. American Indians go through pubescent rites of passage involving quests in the forest. My family’s rite of passage to adulthood is to pass on steamed clam eating rituals. Somewhere in the mountain of shells will he find himself?

Since yoga has attuned my power of observation, this is what I saw: he takes his big thick fingers and indiscriminately grabs the first shell on top of the pile. Eagerly he busts it open with a quick squeeze of his paw.

Juice, butter and innards squirting in all directions. The sloppier the better.

Two dipping bowls are arranged. The first is to ostensibly wash the clam, the second is to drown the god-awful taste in butter so you don’t taste anything as it slides down your throat. His fingers rip off some black skin off the end. All I can think of is foreskin.

One more dip into the pool of butter and voila! Thumb, pointer and middle finger all receive a butter bath. The head cocks back like a seagull caw, caw cawing, demanding food on the beach. In an instant the three greasy fingers rush the innards to the mouth, and drop it in the back of the throat.

The head lowers and slurps the gelatinous mess down the throat, butter oozing out of the sides of the mouth where the fingers grazed the lips on the entry. Rinse and repeat until the mountain has been pulverized.

Never mind these critters do all they mightily can to have no contact with the world. Unlike a fish that swims around, saying catch me if you can, these poor fellas live in a shell. No thank you, they say to contact with outside world. It just makes the entire thing even more barbaric and violative.

I watched them devour nearly a bushel. Disgusted at every bite, I had to turn my attention to my glass of wine.

Then I realized… this was the chance to live my yoga.

As Dinabandhu Sarley told us, living your yoga in your relationship is a high calling. He lived at Kripalu when it was an ashram and lived the spartan life of devotion, practice and celibacy. Only when he left the ashram and had a wife and family did he truly experience yoga embodied in a full life.

He shared stories of how living with someone raises the precise circumstances to challenge and practice compassion and non-judgment. This was my moment to step into that action.

How could I change my aversion and judgment? I feel a tad strongly about the whole topic. I began to think of the joy it must bring them, remembering foods I loved dearly, and the feelings of contentment they brought me. Then I thought of the father/son moment being created, and how my son would remember this adventure even if he never grew to like steamed clams. This testosterone laden ritual was being shared, I could not deny that.

I began to think how nice my husband was to me regarding my eating habits, never criticizing me for my breakfasts of birthday cake, or my burgeoning post menopause waistline. Surely I have disgusting habits. In fact, my kids have been criticizing me for frequently scratching my derriere in public, as my habit of going sans panties with my yoga pants caused an irritating rash on my buttock.

I couldn’t think of an instance when he ever mentioned it to me. He really accepts me. My heart grew in that moment, realizing this. My view softened, and I smiled as I watched the butter dripping down their chins get wiped on their shirts.

They love me, and I them. As Brahmani Liebman, my teacher, has said, “see what is, rather than what isn’t.”

I went out to Hope and Olive in Greenfield this weekend with a girlfriend. We ordered Prince Edward Island steamed mussels with wine and basil. It was delicious!

There will be no pictures posted, however. Still squeamish over the sight of them

Mary Beth Ogulewicz is a Kripalu yoga teacher, mother of four spirited children, professor and lawyer making her way to her mat every day. Visit her website is embraceyouryoga.com and blog is livingsamadhi.wordpress.com.



Editor: Anne Clendening

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