A three-year-old and whelks

Alexander is naturally intrigued by my 2kg string bag of whelks. He handles them with care as I point out the whelk inside the shell. I have to boil them alive, which makes me feel mildly uncomfortable, and for a moment I worry about upsetting Alexander. But I needn’t worry as he has as yet no notion of death or, come to that, of being alive. He knows that when he shoots me I fall to the ground, but he doesn’t know that I’m simulating death.

Once the whelks cool, I show him how to winkle out the whelk, remove its cap, and eat it. I offer him a whelk. He puts it in in his mouth, but, unsurprisingly, spits it out almost at once. I eat it, which fascinates him. He wants me to eat more. He likes winkling out the whelks, with some assistance for me, and then giving them to me to eat.

When he wakes the next morning, he says “Granddad eat wood.” Least I heard it as “wood” and didn’t understand, but he went to the fridge and tried to take down the whelks. I taught him to say “whelk.” The game started again with us winkling out the whelks together and then me eating them. This is breakfast. Even I, a whelk zealot, am unsure about whelks for breakfast, but they are as scrummy as ever. I offer Alexander a whelk, but he screws up his face and refuses. He likes me eating them, but perhaps one day he’ll eat them himself–become the only whelk-eater in Mexico.




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