Eclade des Moules Fire Ceremony
This fun foraged dish is the perfect way to celebrate the change of the seasons and share something meaningful with your friends. And how much more Pacific Northwest can you get than mussels and pine needles? If you live near the coast, you can even forage your own mussels! (Just be sure to purchase a shellfish permit and check for red tides first.) Eclade des Moules is a traditional French recipe for preparing mussels. They are stacked against each other with the hinges up, then covered in a good pile of dry pine needles. The pine needles are lit and as they burn they infuse the mussels with a delicious forest flavor, and no ash falls into the upside-down mussels. Cook the mussels just long enough so that they pop open but remain juicy. This is a very special treat indeed when served with some fresh bread and butter and white wine.
It’s also a great opportunity to create a meaningful ceremony with your dinner guests about letting go of summertime expectations. It is so easy to have grand plans when summer seems to stretch out endlessly before you, and so easy to feel disappointment when winter is on the horizon and you haven’t done everything you’d planned to. It’s okay though, really. There is always next summer. This is your chance to release those expectations so that you can be more present in the fall and winter seasons ahead and actually enjoy the energy of them rather than just pining for the warm days behind you.
For the meal:
Enough fresh mussels to feed your dinner guests (if you live on the coast you can forage your own - just be sure to get a shellfish permit and check for red tides with the appropriate authority in your state first.)
A large wooden board (be careful not to use plywood or other treated woods!)
A garbage bag full of dried pine needles
A long-handled lighter
a small torch (optional)
For the ceremony:
Small slips of paper
Wait for everyone to arrive (perhaps have some cocktails or appetizers set out in the meantime), then gather together in a group. Explain that tonight’s focus will be on letting go of unfulfilled summertime expectations, and have everyone write down on a small sheet of paper one thing that they’d planned to do last summer but hadn’t gotten around to doing. This ceremony will offer you and your guests a chance to release them. Have them hold onto their pieces of paper for now, then set to work arranging the mussels on the board as shown in the picture. It’s helpful to put a couple of nails into the board (or a rock) in the middle to start the spiral of mussels. This activity is best done with lots of chit chat and some tasty beverages.
Once the mussels are arranged properly, set the board on a fire-safe surface away from anything flammable (stone patios work great). Gather in a circle around the board and pile on the pine needles to form a well-sized heap. Go around the circle and ask if anyone would like to share what they’ve written on their paper. If anyone wants to keep their writing private, respect that and move on. Once you’ve gotten all the way around the circle, you can begin the next part. Be ready, because this will go pretty quickly!
Following the same path around the circle, have each guest hold out their paper and carefully light it with the long-handled lighter. They should then say “I release you!” and place the burning paper onto the pile of needles. By the time you reach the last guest, there should be a good fire going. If not, you can use the torch or the lighter to make sure all of the pine needles are well lit. Watch as the needles burn, fading to reveal the beautiful black mussel shells underneath. Once the fire has burned itself out, look at the mussels. They should just be starting to open. If they’re still cold to the touch or closed, pile on more needles and repeat the process until they are warmed and open.
As the mussels cool a bit so they are able to be picked up, go around the circle once again, but this time with the question “What is one thing you are looking forward to about this fall?” Once everyone has had their turn, simply say “thank you for sharing this experience with me tonight. May all that you wish be so! Let’s eat.” Dive in and eat the warm, smoky mussels with smooth butter and fresh bread. A little white wine rounds out the perfect meal.
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