Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Have I Been Doing? Where Have I Been?

Nauset Beach Orleans, Massachusetts
I admit that my posts have been a bit sparse so far this year. Last week I had a legitimate excuse. I was away from my desk, relaxing on Cape Cod in a quiet cottage colony on the shores of a kettle pond. While we were there, the sky was mostly blue, it rained mainly at night, and the ocean water was invigorating.

Our arrival in Chatham coincided with the tagging of the first great white shark off its shores, as it has for the last few years. Great whites love to dine on seals, and Chatham has plenty of them.

When the sharks arrive the media is close behind…
Seagulls love the fish pier, too.
Since 1972, seals have been protected by the Marine Mammal Protection ActAround 2005 the population really took off, and with that growth came the sharks. According to one report, there were an estimated 16,000 gray seals on Cape Cod and the islands in 2013, and one marine scientist opined that the population grows some 20% a year. Once a novelty confined to the waters of the fishing pier or lounging on the rocks in the harbor, seals can be spotted swimming off Nauset Beach on most days. As for the sharks, in 2014, 56 individual sharks were identified by shark researcher Greg Skomal

Still, with the exception of the tagging being done by the marine biologists, there have been few close encounters between human and shark in Cape Cod waters. The lifeguards now have a purple flag they can raise to warn of dangerous marine mammals, but we did not see it fly. So far the commonsensical warnings to avoid swimming at dawn and dusk and never with the seals seem to be working.

The town of Chatham decided to celebrate the sharks’ yearly return with signage, t-shirts, screenings of Jaws at the local theater, and Sharks in the Park, an auction sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association.

Humans checking out the sharks in the park
The week flew by. We explored Chatham and the nearby towns of Harwichport and Brewster, braved the chilly ocean waters in Orleans, read books, played cards and Scrabble, enjoyed many meals on the screened porch while watching birds, and ate onion rings and homemade hermits on the beach. FYI, the hermits did improve with age, but how long they would keep getting better we will never know as this batch is long gone. We even went to a movie in the newly-restored Orpheum Theater — “Inside Out!” [I loved it, but it made me cry.] 

Focaccia transformed
Before we knew it, it was time to think about the trip home. That meant serious late in the week menu planning focused on how to use up the groceries already on hand without buying too much more. Our inventory included red wine, goat cheese, and an excess of bread, in particular a local focaccia purchased at the Chatham farmer’s market. We had olive oil and an excellent cast iron pan. My husband Don thought of creating crunchy sticks by slicing the focaccia into one inch widths and then lengthwise into thirds, which he then toasted over medium heat in the well oiled pan. 

These crisp fingers of bread were delicious and the perfect vehicle for the remaining soft cheese. In fact, they were so good that we brought home the last of the bread and prepared it the same way on Sunday night. For a spread we used some tomato pesto I had stored in the freezer—a little taste of our vacation as we prepared for our first day back.

So here I am, rested, refreshed [at least so far], and ready to blog once more. This is my new mantra.

Look for me again soon. Until then, get out there and enjoy your summer, wherever you are!


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