The moment you understand the force of the sea is the moment you understand what it is to be alive.
There is a sharp, tenuous link between breathing and not, and as I tumble beneath a pummelling wave, I know all I can do is let go and surrender. A force far greater than my small pant of breath draws me to the surface as I reappear from a wave.
“Don’t panic,” shouts the instructor, lifting his voice to rise over the swell, “it’s a waste of energy.” Like rubber clad sheep with luminous heads, I and my small group of buoyant women cut, thrust and kick our way out of the rolling breakers of Skrinkle Bay towards the safety of shore. My legs, heavy with adrenalin, rest weak and unsteady as I am swamped with relief to be back on the beach.
And there, a few turns of a wave out to sea, bobs a seal, slick headed and watchful. “I can see his whiskers,” points my daughter, her cheeks charged by the waves with ions and colour, “just like our dog.” I understand the comparison, as we share our awareness with another living that’s not yet human.
I decline the offer to continue with the swim and instead busy myself searching for coastal bounty. Whilst my daughter dips and laughs with the more adventurous swimmers, I scan the shoreline pantry. I find dark laver seaweed, revealed on rocks grizzled with barnacles as the tide sucks out to sea. I am finally in my element.
Back at the car with the swimmers returned, our appetites are stomach sharp. Hot coffee is shared and the time has come for a hot crab roll.
From a beachside trailer, rich shredded crab meat laced with laverbread butter and sodden lettuce is served between baps of crisp-shelled ciabatta. It’s a three napkin affair. Flecks of seaweed speckle through this hot, salty eat. Sourced from local beaches, it provides the very essence of the dish. True and spectacular Pembrokeshire beach food, Cafe Mor, I thank you.
From the experience of a hot crab roll greedily eaten on a beach with appetite whetted by fresh sea living, a small treasure may be gleaned. It is the use of seaweed seasoning, known as Furikake in Japan. Incredibly simple to make, it delivers a salty, unami taste when sprinkled as a condiment. Try it on rice, tossed through vegetables or in a butter over hot, griddled steak.
Furikake seaweed salt
60g sesame seeds, toasted
2 sheets nori seaweed, cut into strips
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Blitz together in coffee grinder and store in a screw-top jar.
See full Crab Roll recipe here.