Our plans to swim and boogie board thwarted by the swim shop being closed, I noticed a booth labeled “Winkles for Sale” at the side of the road by the ocean. I asked E what a “Winkle” was, and he remarked with a grin that he hadn’t had them since he was a child; we’d pick them up for lunch. He handed me some Euros and pulled over so I could make the purchase from the car window. I was handed a plastic bag, knotted and sealed with two sewing-pins.
Eager to see what was inside, I pulled the pins from the bag and threw them into the dashboard cup holder. “No! We need those!” E exclaimed. We do? Okay, wh……y?
I gulped as I peered into the bag and found roughly 50 shelled creatures, snail-like and covered with sand and ocean plant-life. He laughed as I stared at him with my best amused / “you’ve got to be kidding me” glare. There was no $100,000 Fear Factor prize at the end of this venture, and I could think of little motivation to complete the task at hand. These were… disgusting.
We walked back into the sunroom and he tossed the bag on the dining table. The Periwinkle-eating demonstration began, and I watched in both amusement and horror as he grabbed his sewing pin and flicked the Winkle’s small brown shield from the opening of its shell. Digging into the shell with the sharp end of the pin, E dug out the pre-boiled creature and displayed it for my examination.
I was enthralled. With a face only a mother could love, much like the “Alien” made famous by the film, these little worm-like beings were something I’d never knew were in existence. I felt utterly sad for the little guy, seeing this fate. But I’d come on this trip to grow, face adventure, live. And if the locals can down these babies as a delicacy, didn’t I need to try at least one…?
I picked up my pin and dug the shield from the shell opening. No problem. Then I attempted to hook the Winkle and pull it from it’s shell, in the process tearing it in half and causing its mushy brown insides to spill from its body. And I was done. Kudos to those who want to munch these guys up, but I do not need to devour a creature filled with brown mush. No way.
E about fell from the chair laughing, coaxing me and coaxing me to try again. “You really need to do this. Children eat these. You’ll like it; you just have to get over what they look like. Come on, I’ll help you.”
So, after some time, a second attempt was made. I pinned the Winkle. And.I.ate.it.
It was actually quite good! Salty from the ocean water, Periwinkles resemble small shrimp in texture and may taste even better. Not only did I eat one, I ate eight before the site of them caught up with me, again, and I had to stop. A bizarre, questionable pride overcame me as I realized I’d conquered a fear. Our stomachs, quite humorously, were less amused and, though not sick, made strange sounds the rest of the day.
I will not be rushing back for a meal of Winkles anytime soon. But I am really glad I tried them; the experience, itself, is quite the memory.