My grandmother was from Galicia, and she introduced me to percebes.
Also known as goose barnacles, percebes are expensive because of how hard it is to get them.
Prices change depending on availability and usually range from $170 to $250 per kilo.
Growing up, I would travel from Argentina — where I'm from — to Galicia in the north of Spain to visit my mom's side of the family. Galicia is on the country's northwest coast and is known for its delicious seafood, which includes grilled octopus, tuna empanadas, and percebes, one of the most expensive kinds of seafood in the world.
Percebes, known as goose barnacles in English, are incredibly hard to harvest, which is why a pound of them — usually 15 to 20 barnacles — cost about $100. The price also varies depending on the size of the barnacle and can reach $500 a pound.
Fishermen have to jump into rocky waters and swim through caves to gather the rubbery-looking barnacles. It is said that the more dangerous the spot is where fishermen dive, the better the barnacle.
I had my kids try percebes while in Galicia
Recently, my family of five embarked on a trip around Spain with my parents. Our first stop was Galicia to visit my mom's family and swim in the frigid ocean.
On our first night there, I ordered a double portion of percebes to share with my mom. I didn't think to offer any to my kids, because like most 5- and 3-year-olds, they can be particular about what they eat. But one of my twins kept looking at me eat one barnacle after the other, so I offered her one to try.
I was surprised when she not only agreed but ate one and asked for more. I then offered one to my other twin, who was skeptical at first because of how weird-looking the barnacles are — they have a rubbery bottom you need to twist off and a dinosaur-claw-looking point that holds the meat.
They couldn't get enough percebes
I figured they would each try one and move on to their grilled fish and french fries plates, but I was wrong. They both kept asking for more and suddenly our entire order was gone.
This is not my kids' first time eating something weird from the ocean. A year before their experience with goose barnacles, I had taken them periwinkle, or sea snail, foraging on the coast of Maine. We cooked the little snails, and while I intended to serve them with pasta, my kids ate bowls of boiled snails as a snack.
The preparation for both periwinkles and percebes is similar, so maybe the taste was familiar to them. Local Galicians recommend boiling the barnacles in salted water for a minute before serving them hot.
After that initial introduction to percebes, wherever we went next for food, my kids asked for more "bichitos," or little bugs in Spanish, which turned eating out into a really expensive feast for us.
To commemorate their bravery for trying a new food, one that will forever remind me of my grandmother, I got a percebes tattooed on my arm. I'm sure I will get a lot of questions about it, but I have a great story to tell.
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