"The Sun" by William Carlos Williams + Rosé Mussels

The antidote to any long week is a pot of glossy, steamed mussels dripping in garlic and wine. It's one of summers simple pleasures, and while the mussels themselves take a small amount of work to prep, they basically cook themselves quickly in a warm bath, emerging plump and tender, ready to be spread on a piece of grilled bread.

This poem by William Carlos Williams makes no mention of mussels, but there are five words tucked in the middle of the poem, "the slovenly bearded rocks hiss—" that reminded me of the sound mussels make when they're steaming in the pot.

The Sun

by William Carlos Williams

lifts heavily
and cloud and sea
weigh upon the
unwaiting air—

the silence is
by small waves

that wash away
night whose wave
is without
sound and gone—

Old categories
weed and shells where

in the night
a high tide left
its mark
and block of half

burned wood washed
The slovenly beaded
rocks hiss—

Obscene refuse
this modern shore—

it is a sea-snail
Relax, relent—
the sun has climbed

the sand is
by the broken boat—
the eel-grass

and is released
again—Go down, go
down past knowledge

shelly lace—
among the rot
of children

their delight—
in the penetrable

whose heavy body
to their leaps
without a wound—

From Selected Poems

The beach, hopefully a place many of us will enjoy this season, is our location. We arrive already planted in the sand, with the sun overhead, lifting above the clouds and the sea. I love what comes next: "the silence is divided by small waves." It reminds me of laying on my stomach, a hat covering my face, just drifting off. The sounds begin to overlap, my skin is warm, and maybe I've even dozed off for a minute or two. In this poem, there is the burned wood, sea-snails singing, children screaming: all sounds of a lazy afternoon that Williams collects in this poem like shells in a plastic bucket.

Rosé Mussels

I usually make mussels with white wine, but after reading the post by La Domestique, decided to give rose a try. It's a nice spin on this summery meal.

2 pounds mussels
3 garlic cloves, minced
About 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups rose wine
Grilled bread, for serving

To prepare the mussels, immediately unwrap them when you return from the store and place them in a large bowl in the refrigerator. This will allow them to breathe. 20 minutes before cooking, fill the bowl with cold water and let them sit. They'll open a bit, releasing any lodged sand, and should close again before cooking. The final step is removing the beard, the fibrous threads attached to their shells.

To remove the beard, hold the mussel in one hand, cover the other hand with a dry towel, and grasp the beard; give it a sharp yank toward the hinge end of the mussel. Discard any that don't close up again, or that don't open after steaming.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the garlic with a bit of oil over medium heat. When the garlic is fragrant, add the flour and butter and whisk until no lumps remain and cook for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle in the parsley. Add the wine and let boil for about 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickened slightly and some of the alcohol has burned off. Add a pinch of salt, too, so the broth will be flavorful.

Gently pour in the mussels and nestle them around so everyone is comfortable. Cook uncovered for about 7 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. Spoon into low bowls with plenty of broth, and serve grilled bread alongside.