Whelk

What?? But if I had written “conch” you’d know what I was referring to more than a whelk. These are both sea snails, gastropods, born with tiny shells that grow with the animal.

I found one this morning.

A whelk, not a conch. Whelk can be found on the entire eastern seaboard. Conch only in tropical water. Conch are those shells you see more in decorative places. That lovely shiny pink inner shell. Whelk are usually white or tan and smaller. They can have pointed or knobby crowns. They can be thin or wide. The animal, like the conch, can also be eaten.

The first time I ate a snail was on a trip to New York with my dad. He commuted every week there from our home in NC so we didn’t see him much. To compensate for this he’d take me for a few days over Christmas break and we’d eat roasted chestnuts, watch the skaters at Rockefeller Center, see the Nutcracker ballet. Once we ate snails. He did not even call them escargot and I did not want to eat them, same as I did not want to eat a raw oyster, not at first. But true to responding to my dad, always up for a challenge I did eat it and was pleasantly surprised since it was overwhelmed with lots of butter and a light undertone of garlic. Not so much the oyster. It was slimy, cold, and only tinged with a squeeze of lemon and drop or two of tabasco.

So when something finds its way into the animal’s shell and eats the snail the shell is left. Empty, it eventually is carried by the tide and washes up on shore where some lucky beach-comber like me comes across it. These sea shells are graceful. They look like alabaster and the ocean wears them smooth. I always have a choice whether to pick it up or leave it where I found it. Today I chose to keep it. My son’s birthday is a week from now.

I hope he enjoys it.

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