Earth Shoes, Abalone and Me

This is a recipe I purloined from TheSpruceEats.com. This is what Rick didn’t get for dinner when we were first married. That story follows these very important instructions on how to prepare fresh abalone.

Simple, pan-fried abalone is the best way to appreciate the unique, crave-inducing flavor—something of a cross between scallops and foie gras—of abalone. It takes a bit of time to pound all the slices, but it’s an important step: without it, the abalone will be tough and chewy instead of meltingly tender.

Wild abalone can only be picked in certain areas, with a license, and following strict rules. They cannot be legally purchased. What can be purchased, however, are farmed abalone. They are smaller than wild ones but just as succulent. Since farmed abalone is younger than wild ones (they are harvested after a few years, and to keep wild populations healthy only much larger, older abalones can be harvested), they have a less intense abalone flavor, which is a plus or a minus, depending on how much you like abalone.

Whether it’s wild or farmed, abalone needs to be cleaned and tenderized before cooking.


  • 1 wild abalone or 2 farmed abalones
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to wrest the abalone from its shell, cut off and discard the dark sac of viscera, cut off and discard the rubbery lip around the edge of the abalone, scrub the rest of the abalone clean or cut off the icky black stuff around the edges.
  3. Thinly slice the cleaned abalone. Pound the slices tender: use a meat tenderizer or, even better, the back of a large metal spoon to gently tap each slice until the texture goes from stiff to limp.
    • Tip
      Important counterintuitive note: Lots of gentle taps are better and more effective than hard pounds.
  4. In a large shallow bowl or wide plate, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the abalone slices in the flour mixture, shake off any excess flour, and lay the abalone slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, cutting board, or platter. Alternatively, put the flour mixture in a large resealable plastic bag, add the abalone slices, and shake to coat.
  5. In a large frying pan or sauté pan, melt the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and stopped foaming, add a single layer of the floured abalone slices to the pan and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook until golden on the other side, another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with any remaining slices.
  6. Serve hot and enjoy.

Earth Shoes, Abalone, Two Cops and a Full Backyard

(Circa ‘75)

The advertisement jumped off the page; UNI-SEX EARTH SHOES $10.00 A PAIR. I’d wanted some ever since one of my teachers walked into class wearing the coolest brown shoes I’d ever seen. Ten dollars a pair. I’d buy one for myself, and though Rick was committed to work boots, I’d buy a pair for him. I called my younger brother Andrew, who was always up for a good deal. We planned to meet later in the afternoon, and drive thirty miles to the shoe store making the incredible offer. In the previous months I’d given up white sugar, ate only whole wheat flour and now, I was walking away from heels.

We smoked a joint and were rolling the top off my little red sports car when Rick pulled up.

“Hey, you know this is a false spring.” He said as he got into snapping the cover back. Then seeing what shape we were in, he decided to taxi us to buy the shoes. There was just enough room for Andrew to sit in the middle with his legs stretched between the bucket seats along the emergency brake. We flew, guessing there would be hundreds of people in line to buy the earth shoes. I could just see the supply of my size eights dwindling and had already made a deal with myself, I’d be willing to jump to a nine, if only nines were all available. Rick pointed to the early show of blossoms on the almond trees.

“Poor sons-of bitches. They’ve got an early set and all it will take is one late freeze and boom there goes their crop.” Rows and rows of unsuspecting trees covered in clouds of white creating individual bouquets, dotted our way.

“Funny, the things I don’t know about farming.” I yelled back at Andrew who sat with his long hair blowing behind him in the wind.

“It never occurred to me that trees wouldn’t bloom until they were supposed to. Are you sure? How do you know this is a false spring?” I asked my husband the farmer. I’d never heard of a false spring and about half of everything he talked about. But he couldn’t hear me in the roar of the car, so I went through my closet in my mind, and paired different outfits with the shoes.

We had a little trouble finding the store, because it sat out behind a back parking lot of an ice-cream parlor. Andrew and I eyed the mouth watering ice-cream sign as Rick ushered us across the blacktop.

“Oh my God.” I whispered to Andrew and dragged him around a shelf of shoes. I didn’t have to tell him who it was standing between our earth shoes and us. The shoe salesman was one of our most hated childhood enemies. This was the same guy who with his two older brothers wiped us out in a dirt clod fight when we were twelve and ten. I could just see Andrew valiant at first, as he lobbed clods from our fort in the cemetery at the three blond brothers. But all bravery ended when he took a direct hit smack in the middle of his face. Mud was stuck where his nose was running. He dropped and curled up protecting his head with his arms. Only the lowest of lowlifes would aim for a headshot,a character thing we always thought.

As we hid behind the shoes,I remembered Kelli, our older sister had made out with one of the brothers.

“Didn’t Kelli get a hickey from one of those guys? I asked. That got us going. We started laughing and I don’t think for a million dollars we could have stopped. I was all for walking out, but I could see Rick looking at the rows of left shoes, the rights hidden from sight must have been around the corner.

Andrew sat down on the bench trembling from laughing so hard or trying not to laugh. I thought it best not to look at him, but almost collapsed on the ground in a fit, when I saw him walk by wearing a foot of an old nylon cut three inches above his ankle when our “friend”, the salesman, insisted he put on after he caught Andrew trying on the shoe with his foot unprotected.

If he realized who we were, he didn’t let on, instead he sort of sneered at the three of us, especially Rick and Andrew’s long hair as we waited at the counter for the matching rights. He wasn’t the only one looking pissed. Rick gave me a sharp look. For the life of me, I couldn’t stop giggling and ended up leaving my shoes with him and walked out the door.

We laughed hysterically all the way home. The vision of Andrew’s hairy foot inside the nylon replayed in my mind as I gazed at my feet looking like big old brown mushrooms sprouting at the floor of the car. These were not pretty shoes and I didn’t even know if they were comfortable with my heel leaning towards a flat bottom, and my toes sitting up on about two and half inches of sole. But they were cool, and I was high after buying three pairs in the face of my enemy.

“Hey Andy, do you want to stay for dinner?” I asked as we pulled in the drive.

“I’m baking abalone, it’s been in the oven since we left.” I smiled at Rick as I announced my surprise meal. He looked shocked and then sort of afraid.

“My abalone?” He asked, but I could tell he knew there was no other abalone.

In the morning I’d dug around in the freezer searching for something to take out for dinner. Rick’s freezer was an adventure, full of neatly wrapped, white butcher paper parcels. His hunting is clearly evident with different kinds of frozen game; petite quail breasts, a whole cleaned duck, and even what I was hoping for was a rabbit and not a squirrel. I dragged out instead, a white papered five inch by five inch cube, marked in black magic marker, abalone. I knew absolutely nothing about abalone, and I didn’t recall ever having eaten the stuff. I was used to my mom’s freezer at home with it’s simple hamburger, hotdogs and a whole chicken or two. I was bound and determined to learn how to cook these new delicacies.

After thawing out the pinkish-yellow brick of the abalone, I rubbed it with butter, sprinkled a healthy dousing of salt and pepper like I did with everything else I cooked and threw it in the oven with some potatoes. The aroma of its cooking wafted out to us as we came up the walk.

“Did you pound it?” Rick asked, looking at me and I looked at my brother.

“What do you mean by pound?” I answered starving all of a sudden.

“You’re kidding, right? Because if you didn’t pound it with a mallet, you’ll never be able to get a fork into the meat.” He sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I argued with him anyway, as the three of us peered over the door of the oven at the roasted abalone. It looked delicious and the potatoes seemed a little past done, just the way I like them.

“I’ll make the salad, you guys can set the table and we can eat. I announced, losing a little confidence when I saw Rick trying to fork the muscle of the abalone, and the tines were not sharp enough to go into the dense meat. In a flash I tossed him the tongs, and he pinched it out of the oven where it dropped, bounced and slid like a puck across the room. With a spatula and the tongs he managed to wrestle the thing up and lobbed it with a spectacular move into the sink where it landed with a loud thud. Andrew and I stood there stunned.

“I guess I should’ve pounded it.” I said. The blind hysterics got going again with giggles exploding from me. After he rinsed it, he toweled it off and placed the abalone onto a cutting board. He hacked at it with a knife until he managed to get a couple of little strips off. Only a seagull swallowing food whole would have been able to gulp in one piece the chunks, because the abalone un-pounded was un-chewable. With my back to Rick, I wrapped it in its original white paper, put that inside a plastic bag and walked it out to the garbage. The salad though, was divine with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and anything else I could find in the vegetable bin to add for filler. Perhaps it was in my mind, but I thought there was a hint of ocean in the potatoes.

The lights of a police car rotated like a disco ball on the bedroom ceiling and the breathy sound of voices talking woke me up from a dead sleep around midnight. Two policemen in their summer wares, the neighbor who lived diagonally across the cul-de-sac and Rick stood in a half circle under the porch light. One of the officers was holding Rick’s wrist rocket slingshot. Rick was saying he didn’t know he had hit the window of our neighbor’s garage door.

“I was trying to scare the cat. Didn’t you hear them fighting?” Rick looked at the neighbor.

“They were in our garbage.” He added.

“We didn’t have to ask and he did give us the wrist rocket, when we came over.” The policeman volunteered.

“It’s a good thing you didn’t hit our cat, you would’ve killed him.” The neighbor said, turning and pitching his case to the officer. He was neatly dressed in his pajamas, robe and slippers.

“It was an accident, I’m really sorry.” Rick said.

“I thought someone shot at the house.” Our neighbor said irately, and then asked to see the wrist rocket. The modern day slingshot was passed over and he slipped his hand into the backward L of an aluminum pipe, it’s strap being a three quarter inch thick rubber tube.

“Wow” He said to his fifteen year old son who had just arrived upon the scene as he pulled the tube back like he was preparing to shoot a bow. He sounded impressed.

“Where did you get this thing?” He asked, and then handed it over to his son for a try. I could see the silhouette of his wife looking, like me, out of a dark living room window.

“I found it at Army Navy Surplus. Hey, I’ll replace the glass first thing in the morning.” Rick offered, looking at the officers, who looked at each other, seeing this was settled,  nodded in agreement. Rick walked the little group down the driveway and went around the side of the house. I found him putting a stack of bricks on the lid of the garbage can.

“I guess I should have buried the abalone, like I did with the hamburger helper the other day.” I said.

“Oh, that’s what those little mounds of dirt are out in the back. I wondered why the old brittany spaniel, who lives a couple houses down has been sniffing around. Is this where my trout ended up?” He asked as he stood there in the dark gazing out over the backyard.

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