The yellow sticker on the pack read "Sshhh! They're sleeping".
After mechanical debearding, Tasmanian Spring Bay mussels are shrink-wrapped into a kind of plastic oxygen chamber where they slumber blissfully for 'up to nine days', according to the pack.
Certainly, they were very quiet. I wondered whether they were not in an induced coma rather than merely sleeping. I placed them very carefully into the pot of boiling fluid. What if one were to wake up seconds before being boiled to death?
The fluid comprised a cup of white wine, a little olive oil, an onion, five chopped garlic cloves, and a chili - all finely chopped - and some ground pepper. The mussels were cooked in two minutes. Then a shower of chopped parsley and away you go. See how high you can stack up the shells in a side dish without letting them clatter to the table. It's an art.
The best part of this dish, besides the fat, briney, orange mussels, is mopping up the garlic-infused fluid with good bread. I used the last of the Dench sourdough.
Mussels in white wine and garlic is my traditional welcome-to-Spring dish. I haven't decided if shrink-wrapped Tasmanian mussels are better than the local Portarlington or Shoreham ones. Any other opinions? The Tasmanian ones seemed more uniform in size and had fewer irregularities and marks on the shells than the local ones. They are ideal for those who don't want the work involved in debearding mussels but it has never bothered me.
My funniest mussel memory: our late Britanny, Goldie, eating leftover mussels and spitting out bits of shell.