Shrimp Netting and Oyster Plucking in Vendee
If you’ve read the 1913 French comic Becassine, you’ll know what shrimp netting in western France means. Otherwise, it’s pretty self-explanatory and a good sunny day activity out on the beach.
Grab a big net on a pole (at local markets in Vendee), find a beach at low tide and don’t be afraid to wet your feet! When we got down to the beach at La Fontaine aux Bretons, there was an old man sitting on a rock, watching a plastic bucket. I peeked inside and saw pounds of fresh oysters.
“Yes I’ve collected them all,” he said proudly, adding that they were everywhere in the tidepools. “Watch your hands though!” he said, showing me his still-bleeding forearms and hands. As we were chatting, a group of shrimp netters walked by us. “They’re going to catch ‘les grises’,” the man said.
“Grises” are tiny curled-up inch-size shrimps that are widely available on this coast. It was too late for us to get a net but my brother Jean went out to “uproot” a few oysters for my little girls with his bare hands, while my little girls frantically set out to collect shells.
Sure enough, twenty minutes later Jean brought me back a fresh oyster sitting in a weeping carnation pool in his hands. While I politely declined eating the bloody oyster on the spot, I offered him to go take it to his girlfriend.
Which he did. And she was happy to hold the dear red treasure in a handkerchief until it was time for us to get dressed for Albane’s wedding, our day’s big adventure.