Seaweed and Ice-Cream
My grandson loves riding the Mummy Taxi with me. He knows after kindy he will either get cake from Sweet Kiss on Clovelly Road or gelato from the Coogee Pavilion. I know how to buy a heart. Recently I had to collect some seaweed for my compost bin. Our poor sandy soils need a lot of work to grow vegetables and fruit trees. Seaweed is a magic ingredient mixed with dynamic lifter (chicken shit), well watered and covered with a tarpaulin to cook. I like to sit in my cabana as it steams away, enjoying the thought of millions of bacteria and insects chomping away, as I do with my olives, ouzo and octopus.
Anyway, I thought I would give the boy an extra treat by doing a combination trip that included seaweed harvesting and gelato licking, knowing that the northern end of Coogee Beach had carpet rolls of the stinky stuff a stone’s throw from the Pavilion gelato bar.
He wasn’t interested at all in collecting seaweed, only licking his mocha ice cream, a sophisticated choice. His decision-making was dazzling. How did he know about mocha at his age? We kicked off our sandals and wandered down the beach, me leading the way with three sacks, him dawdling, concentrating intently on licking. As I approached the coiled kelp I saw him turn around and start heading back. He probably thought sitting on the sandstone wall watching me and licking was a better option, but I couldn’t have that. He’d have been maybe 60 metres away from me. What would his parents say?
I yelled to him to come down and help. He was not interested in trudging over hot sand to collect messy seaweed with a deranged Papou. From his diminutive perspective there was a mass of desert between us. He was absorbed in the cone and balancing the art of licking to the rate of melting. This needed concentration. He probably had never had mocha before. Maybe it had some caffeine in it to sharpen the drugging effect. Maybe some of the patron’s magic dust fell upon it.
Finally my yelling turned him around and he arrived from the long dawdle as I was about halfway through the task of bundling the wet gelatinous pulp, which I happen to love as I snorkel over it, regularly admiring its grace and otherworldliness. Sometimes I see the iridescent blue groper and its khaki-coloured mate glide through it. That some ignorant beachgoers call it dirty is a disgrace.
My grandson ignores my calls for assistance, blissfully wandering along the water’s edge lost in the licking, occasionally collecting shells. I respected this lost world he had descended into and said nothing.
Finally, with three bags full, I started trudging up the sand establishing little way stations to make it easier. Seaweed, fresh and wet, is bloody heavy. It is 100 per cent goodness like no other vegetable matter. About half way back he was on my heels finishing the end of the cone and, like a good boy, he handed me the soggy mush of tissue that had once provided some protection for his sticky fingers. I thanked him and put it in with the seaweed to be composted.
The ice cream was an absolute knockout and the after-effect blissful to such young senses. I like to think he just enjoyed his time around me as well. Not so crazy Papou. He is a smart boy and knows the wonders a garden and good soil can bring. He loves my sunflowers, tomatoes and olives, and the butterflies and bees. He gets it.
There was just one frustrating thing about this adventure. I wanted to explain to him that his delicious ice cream actually had a seaweed extract as one of its vital ingredients. Known as agar, it is used in food and pharmaceuticals. Seaweed is magic, just like ice cream, and look how much is gifted to us by the mighty ocean when it roars.
You have to love this place.