For The Menu and the Wardrobe
Humor by Tom McLaughlin
Cownose stingrays are the scourge of both the back (behind Ocean City) and Chesapeake bays. They love to eat oysters. Any size, any where, raw, stewed with hot sauce, Rockefeller, pan fried, stuffed with baked red snapper, in an omelet, and on and on like shrimp in the movie Forest Gump.
The ray's mouth is made to eat shellfish. Their jaws are like huge pliers that crack the shell open and then gobble up the insides. They also love clams and snails served in the same way as oysters. (See Above.)
Most watermen want to get rid of them. They are useless critters of absolute no value to anyone. Their existence destroys any hope of re establishing oysters in the Chesapeake or back bays. And oysters are a huge cash crop.
But, there is one person who is trying to find a use for them. I met him at the Commercial Fisherman's Expo in Ocean City. The fisher folks catch these rays accidentally in their nets and sell them to this researcher. He is now trying to find a use for them. And the fishermen are more than happy to peddle these useless buggers to this poor sap who wants them for some reason. Good riddance is their idea as they pocket the cash.
The researcher is trying to find a use for them so the forces of evil won't wipe them out. He has cut them up, gives them to chefs to feed to adventurous diners and, eventually place them on menus. I don't know about you, but if I saw cownose ray as a selection, it would join my other least favorite food - like liver.
Don't you just hate people who try to force you to eat something because of a recipe? "But it really doesn't taste like liver," they will say. But, it does, oh, it does, as the stomach churns.
The idea of trying to sell the rays is that if you can promote them, or parts of them, the people will try to conserve them so that there will always be some around. They only produce one ray per season where other non-oyster eating rays spew them out like carp.
The market for stingray skins seems to be growing as a fad much like Beanie Baby's. A "genuine stingray wallet" cost $59 at an Internet site (www.exoticleather.biz). They also have purses, gun bags, briefcases, vests, skins, and keep going like in Forest Gump.
No, I don't think I would wear a stingray vest or anything else from that animal because I feel somehow it would sting me. Revenge of the ray while I was swimming in the Atlantic comes to mind. "Hi, would you like to see my stingray wallet, is not exactly a good opening line for a lady at a bar scene. Well, maybe on second thought.
The conservation of cownose rays is important in the ecology of the planet and efforts must be made to conserve them while the oyster industry is trying to rebound from years of over harvesting and disease. Somehow this reminds me of the adage about the fox and the hen house.