Dinner and gem harvesting from the sea

Mercy Reed grew up on the waters of Nantucket Bay.

“I grew up as a fisherman. You know, we were shellfish eaters, and steamer eaters, especially quahogs,” she said.

Mercy’s parents owned a commercial Quahog Dragger boat together. And they wasted nothing. Mercy’s mother turned these shells into beautiful handmade beads, inspired by the traditions of the indigenous Wampanoag tribe. This is the world’s largest seashell bead. As Mercy grew older, she also started shellfish fishing commercially, working in restaurants and serving locally sourced clams and oysters in half-shells. And just like her mother, she realized that she wanted to pay homage to those shells by turning them into something beautiful.

“So she tells everyone, ‘I’m self-taught,’ because I can’t tell her how to do anything, and I can’t tell her everything by cutting off her fingertips.” And all that is still happening. ”

Mercy developed her own style of long shell dagger earrings made from conch shells and cascading waterfall earrings from scallops and deep-sea shell fragments. She soon realized that just as shells are used in the kitchen, different types of shells have different uses in the jewelry workshop.

“The density of the shell varies greatly from species to species. Quahogs are really dense, steamers are less so,” Murthy explained.


“The soft shells fall apart. The razor clams are incredible. Also very thin. The mussels are also incredible. I have them. Very thin but a bit more It’s dense and seems to hold on.’ But yeah, we started with quahogs, scallops, mussels, and oysters, all of which sell local shellfish and turn it into jewelry before eating it or reselling it. I was doing ”

Mercy initially sold jewelry as a side business, primarily to people she worked with at local restaurants.

“I think I did Oysterfest as well. That was one of my first shows. I don’t know if it was 2004 or 2005, but everyone thought it was beautiful and amazing. And , it’s been so uplifting and wonderful to be supported by all of you.” All of my friends and wonderful people, half of whom happen to work in restaurants, wear my creations and love their jewelry. was removed from the ear and sold. It was amazing. ”

Mercy felt an incredible connection. Here there was a community of people who treated and appreciated the local shellfish in many ways. Since then, that sense of connection has only deepened. There are so many overlapping parts. Today, when Marcy works in the studio, she wears old commercial fishing gear. This is because all the sanding and grinding work she does is done underwater. And she says she can’t go out to eat anymore without thinking about that roundabout and how parts that would normally be thrown away can be turned into something beautiful.

“I’m more interested in what the shells look like when I’m served food at a restaurant. And it’s the same as finding a friend who works in the kitchen and thinking, ‘Hey, what? These shells are beautiful.’ maybe. It’s kind of like, but can I have some? ”

Mercy ended up making earrings out of the Queen Conch shell, used in Jamaican conch fritters, and the orange shell of a local whelk. I asked her if she might end up eating more shellfish than she wanted and she said no chance.

“I don’t think you should eat too much shellfish.

Not always at her house, probably always in someone’s kitchen – a relative’s or friend’s kitchen. After all, eating is where Mercy’s jewelry work began, and it continues to come full circle.

shell jewelry

Mercy Reed’s Half Moon Chowder

• A large 6- to 7-pound cherry stone or quahog
• 3 cups of water
• 4 ounces fat slab bacon or salted pork
• 2-4 TBSP unsalted butter, if desired
• 2 large green onions, cut into half moons
• 4-5 sprigs of thyme
• 1 dried bay leaf
• Coarsely chop 1 pound of potatoes into small cubes
• 1-2 cups heavy cream
• 1/4 cup potato starch
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 cup dry white wine

Put your boots on and step out onto the plains and dig a quahog yourself, or if you dare like me go barefoot and toe digging…
When you get home with your treasure, run the clams under cold running water and scrub them with a soft brush to remove dirt and debris.
Place the clams in a freezer bag or an airtight freezer-safe container.
Once frozen (usually left overnight, depending on size) remove from freezer and place in a bowl on counter.
It’s time to shave…
Make sure you have a sturdy workbench and use a clam knife.
Align the clam knife with the outer edge of the shell. Carefully and firmly push the blade between the shells and push it inwards.
The clams are frozen, but you should still be able to knife into the muscle. Pry open the frozen clams, scrape out all the insides from the shells, and place them in a large bowl. Once all the clams have been shelled, they will begin to defrost immediately. Place in the refrigerator to continue defrosting. Leave in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
Once thawed, separate the clams and juice. I use a large colander. Reserve this precious juice of course. You should drink about 4 cups.
Chop the potatoes and salted pork or bacon.
Remove the stalk from the leek, chop it finely, cut it in half, peel it, and cut it into half-moons. Cut potatoes and bacon into cubes.

Add butter to a large, heavy Dutch oven and reduce heat to medium-low. Add bacon or salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and pork begins to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove fat from pork with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the leeks to the fat and cook, stirring regularly, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes and wine, stir, and continue cooking until wine evaporates and potatoes begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add about 4 cups of clam broth, enough to cover the potatoes, and add the thyme and bay leaves. Partially cover the pot and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes.
When the potatoes are soft, add the cream, add the clams and the reserved bacon and mix. Add black pepper if desired. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. (Don’t let the chowder come to a full boil.) Remove and discard the thyme and bay leaves. Let the chowder stand for a while to harden. Reheat to just before boiling before serving.

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