Back in the late 1980's when I was still in high school, I remember my mother wearing my father's old jacket from his skating rink days, only taking it off to drive us to practice, pick us up from school or make dinner. During these weeks of October, her days were spent opening scallops and the jacket kept her warm and protected from the gooey, snot like scallop guts that ended up in the trash bucket along with the shells. Her task was to finish opening bushels and bushels of scallops, as many as a commercial license was allowed to procure before my father arrived home with more. This was a time when bay scallops were ridiculously plentiful and my father called it "a bonanza". Each day, he left before dawn, in the crisp early fall air, took off in his boat, then returned in the late afternoon. He unloaded his catch, the scallops heaped high in their baskets, shells clapping open and shut, making clicking noises and forcing the scallops on the top of the piles to tumble onto the concrete floor and continue there, clapping, slowly: open, shut, open, shut.
I'm still not sure if she was glad to take a break from all that scallop opening, her hands chapped and raw, tiny cuts along her fingers from the sharp shells and shucking knife, to help us make costumes for the float that year. Her talent, along with cooking and gardening, has always involved the sewing machine for which I have many fantastic Halloween costumes and my sister has her wedding dress to show for it. We had hatched an idea to make angel and devil costumes featuring angels with maroon "F"'s on their costumes for Falmouth and red devils to represent our evil rival, Barnstable. Val mustered up what little patience she had left from her long day and helped us produce brilliant costumes amidst our teenage giggling and foolishness. I'm sure there are photographs somewhere documenting her hard work and all the fun we had as dressed as devils, we pretended to drag the float carrying the Falmouth Angels along main street the day before Thanksgiving to the pep rally at Fuller Field.
Sadly, there is no longer a pre-Thanksgiving Day parade made up of Falmouth High School students, no longer a pep rally on that Wednesday. The kids all have the day off from school and lots of families use the time to travel out of town. There are not as many scallops in the bays, either. Those "bonanza" days have passed, as the cycles of nature determine. But every October 1st, without fail, my father still gears up his boat and launches it in the early pre-dawn morning hoping for a mess of scallops to bring home for dinner. I get excited when I see the local fish market marquee lit up with the words, "Bay Scallops". It proves there still are some out there, hiding in the muck and sea grass they call home. It's as if all is right in the world for a moment: the cranberries, the football games and the friendships just like they always were.
If you can find them or you know a shell fisherman willing to give up some of their catch, this is the easiest and just about the most perfect way to prepare bay scallops.
shucked scallops, about 1/2 cup per person
Preheat broiler. Lay the scallops in one even layer in a square, metal 8"x 8" pan. Dot scallops with small pats of butter. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Place under broiler for 3-5 minutes until scallops just begin to turn white and some of them begin to split on the edges. Remove from oven and serve immediately.