Monday, 27 May 2013

Flex Your Molluscs

Scene: an old-style fishmongers’ somewhere in England.

Dramatis personae:
A Fishmonger.
A Customer.
Some Mussels.

The Customer is enquiring of the Fishmonger concerning the freshness and potential health risks of some Mussels.

CUSTOMER (C): A lot of these seem to be open.  Doesn’t that mean they’re dead, and will poison me?

FISHMONGER (F): You give them a sharp tap, like this.  (Raps a Mussel on the counter.)  It takes a moment, but see?  (The Mussel slowly closes its shell.) They’ll close up.  So that one’s alive.  Perfectly safe to eat.

C: Right.  (Raps another Mussel on the counter, and waits.  The shell stays open.)  So that one’s dead?

F: That one’s dead.  (Pause.)  But the dead ones are all right too, long as they haven’t been dead for too long.

C: I see.  (Pause.)  How long?

F: Oh, four or five hours.

C: Right.  (Pause.)  How do I tell how long they’ve been dead?  (Longer pause.)  I mean, you can’t ask them, can you?  (To the Mussel:)  Please Mr Mussel, how long have you been dead?


F: I see what you mean.  (Begins to tap the open Mussels.)

C: Oh, don’t bother.


Author’s note:  Later, after they had been exquisitely prepared by C (who is B), I ate many of them.  They were delicious, and I’m still alive and well.  (Unlike the Mussels.)


  1. Not one for me to try. Dead or alive.

  2. As I'm sure B knows, a Mussel that stays open once you've scrubbed it or that doesn't open as it cooks (er, dies), is better thrown away. I'm never sure what to do about the ones that only open a little bit, though. However, since the Sage's attitude to Mussels is much the same as Richard's, I'd only be poisoning myself, so it wouldn't matter.

  3. They are not whelk um on my plate either. Mrs B likes to play the salmonella lottery with them though.

  4. shell fish are for the birds

  5. Musselian roulette?

  6. Your comments have warmed the cockles of my heart, but I can't think of any more razor-sharp puns so I'll s-cuttle off and clam up.