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Providence Journal Features Shellfish Hatchery Manager Karin Tammi, Scallop Cookbook

Providence-based newspaper details marine scientist’s journey to a published scallop cookbook

Back in August, RWU Magazine profiled Shellfish Hatchery Manager Karin Tammi, who was preparing to release her first cookbook through Pelican Press. This week, The Providence Journal took a closer look at Tammi’s book (co-authored by her mother, Elaine), “Scallops: A New England Coastal Cookbook,” which renowned chef Julia Child encouraged them to write.


All about scallops in the water & on the plate

By Gail Ciampa, Journal Food Editor

October 19, 2011

Some cookbooks are a lifetime in the making, and it might feel that way to Little Compton’s Karin A. Tammi about “Scallops: A New England Coastal Cookbook,” which she wrote with her mother Elaine Tammi.
The story of this book includes research into local aquaculture, homespun and restaurant recipes and encouragement by the legendary Julia Child. What else would you expect when a marine biologist and a home cook collaborate on a subject dear to their hearts?

Let’s start, if not at the beginning, then with the problem that inspired Karin’s life work: Overdevelopment of the coastline caused pollution and disruption of natural habitats, which caused diminished numbers of bay scallops. What was plentiful in the ’50s and ’60s, and cost about 27 cents a pound, said Karin, was disappearing.

Fast forward to fall 1996: Tons of scallops were being harvested in the Westport River, thanks largely to aquaculture techniques that evolved from Karin’s master’s thesis research at the University of Rhode Island. Those working on the Bay Scallop Restoration Project, including everyone from the shellfish constable to volunteers, found themselves with more scallops than they knew what to do with. Tired of broiling and searing them for dinner, the team all began exchanging recipes. Someone had the idea   to print a pamphlet with some 20 recipes that could be shared in the community. You could say that was the first version of “Scallops,” published earlier this summer by Pelican ($39.95).
Being part of the national trade group Women’s Fisheries Network connected Karin and her mother, Elaine, who lives on Cape Cod, with Julia Child who came to a dinner. (The photo is in the book.) The French Chef, even as she neared her California retirement, was still a force in New England food circles, and she responded with nothing but positive thoughts when the Tammis asked her about their idea for a scallop cookbook.

“Julia’s sentiment was that ‘The scallop deserves its due,’ ” said Karin. And can’t you almost hear her saying it!   She also asked them for a preface to their book and some notes. Little did they know that she sent it to her editor, Judith Jones, at Knopf. They received an encouraging letter from Jones, but with a rejection note that Knopf was not publishing any single ingredient cookbooks. “It really became a side story to the book; the calls and letters from Julia,” said Karin. One day, her mother was out and her father answered the phone and it was Julia. She liked to talk about scallops with Elaine. But she also had great advice for both Tammis, which was to become experts in the subject of scallops. Together mother and daughter began writing for publications including Food Arts magazine. Elaine established herself as an authority on preparing and cooking scallops. Karin did educational programs with area schools. At book signings this year, she has been shocked to hear how many people remember the program that resulted from the Westport River project and her mascot, “Seemore Scallop.”

“Part of the bigger picture has always been getting people to think about their water systems and what happens with water quality, pollution and habitats,” she said. The issue isn’t simply food but business, she said, adding that fishing is a $300-million business for New Bedford. Today, Karin manages the Luther H. Blount Shellfish Hatchery at Roger Williams University. So 15 years later, all their work and knowledge has evolved into a compelling single subject cookbook that just happens to include a lot of marine biology, passion and recipes both comforting and elegant. “We didn’t do it for the money but for the passion,” said Karin.

Click here for the full story and recipes from the book.