We took a 50 mile drive trip up OR-101 to see one of this state’s most famed beaches. The weather was perfect: sunny, almost warm, and with just a gentle breeze. Wildflowers were exploding; we saw flashy wild rhododendrons, gold and yellow California poppies, those bigger bluebonnet look-alikes called lupines, and the state flower the Oregon Grape.
It was a lovely day along the Pacific with vast beaches and cresting waves crashing onto igneous rock haystacks. Had we taken a mid-state route to Netarts Bay without following the coastline this would have been breath-taking scenery. But in truth the whole Oregon coast is wonderful to behold, and yes, like the natives we have become accustomed to spectacular vistas; this was more of the same, but that’s a good thing. And we had done our research and knew where to eat and what to look for.
The look-for included a fine little touristy town, and on just one rock island, nesting Tufted Puffins. Lunch happened at Ecola Seafood, a neat little Road Food stop rated Legendary. Kat enjoyed a Dungeness Crab cocktail (with tangy horseradish red sauce) and a cup of Clam Chowder. And I raved over a Calamari Salad whose taste I remember but whose ingredients are, all but one, unknown to me. The squid was trimmed into long thin strips, possibly quickly blanched, followed by a short exposure to some pickling agent. There were dark brown streaks, perhaps some variety of seaweed, and here and there a green or a yellow, all apparently some form of vegetable and also lightly pickled with a flavor not unlike the veggies in a perfect Banh Mi sandwich. I have implored The Google to find recipes for this dish, but nothing she comes up with involves pickling or seaweed. If I were to hand write a letter to Ecola asking “what’s in the calamari salad” and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope, do you think they would respond? Major League ballplayers will sign and return their baseball cards about a third of the time, but they have a four month off-season. I have my doubts on Ecola.
The puffins sport gaudy breeding plumage only when they nest, April into July. They are famously poor flyers who get better use from their wings by swimming up to 200’ underwater in pursuit of small fish. Each pair digs a burrow and lines it with dried grass and their own feathers. Mrs. Puffin lays just one egg. She and Mr. P take turns guarding the nest against gulls who would be quick to steal eggs or nestlings. While one guards, the other goes fishing and upon returning, feeds the youngster. If all goes well Junior is fully grown by mid-July at which time his parents just leave him and the nest. Soon enough he gets hungry, and something tells him to jump off the haystack and fly out into the North Pacific. There he will teach himself to fish for his dinner and to sleep afloat on the cold Pacific. Puffins have solved the puzzle of how to get the kid off the payroll, and their method sounds a lot like Tough Love.