Much sought after was the seafood and seaweed from the Pacific Coast. Pomo as well as Coast Miwuk enjoyed seafood almost all year round but inland tribes made a special trip to gather seafood at the coast. The coastal people also travelled inland to gather much needed plants.
Inland families from Dry Creek would trek two or three times to camp on the beach at Fort Ross. There is a freshwater stream with trees to protect it, a place to collect beach strawberries and seaweed. Each stay would last two to three weeks.
The Pomo people would dry the fish and seaweed they gathered. They half-boiled the shellfish, rockfish and surf fish in a can or pot. They also collected turban snails, mussels, abalone and chitons (very bright green skin without a shell). Then they shelled everything and laid it out on a clean cloth atop gravel or driftwood to dry it.
The end of May was the time to stop collecting seafood until end of August. After the August red tides it was safe to eat seafood again. The winter was time to enjoy these salt-preserved foods as well as stored nut recipes. (See other blogs for recipes).
Dry Creek and Warm Springs Creek people would smoke fish and meats to make jerky. Dry Creek was a spawning stream for steelhead and rainbow trout until it was damned up to create Lake Sonoma. Bodega Bay had fresh salmon, clams or crab.
Camping trips were always eagerly anticipated and memorable for the children--visiting relatives, playing and sleeping on the beach, swimming in the very cold ocean waters. But the main goal was to gather and take home food from the ocean.
If you could wake up at 4am to get to the surf in time for low tide you could just pry abalone from the rocks. Surf fish could be caught at night. The children would collect seaweed off the rocks. It was the lightest seafood to carry home from the ocean. They dried it on the beach rocks turning it as needed. Then they rolled it up and stored it in a gunnysack.
Today seaweed is fried quickly in a very hot oiled cast-iron skillet without burning it. It is eaten like potato chips or wrapped in a tortilla. Laura Somersal the famous Pomo basket weaver would put lightly oiled seaweed in a clump in a pan and bake it at 350 degrees, watching it closely and removing it before it burns.
Mussel shells were used a spoons for eating acorn. They would be rubbed thin on a rock.
Mussels were prepared for eating by soaking in cold water before boiling it with the shell on. Then they were stewed in a gravy. If they didn't open while being cooked they were thrown out.
Turban snails were also boiled at the beach. A safety pin worn about the neck would serve as a handy pick to remove the cooked snail from their shells.
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