For some time now, and especially while in lock down, I’ve been reading a lot about the landscape and history of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) which is Quandamooka Country, and is also where I live on the weekends.
If you are curious about where you live, I would really recommend you do the same.
Learning about the history and taking in the knowledge has given me such a deeper connection and understanding of where I live and also a wider respect for the indigenous community and the traditional owners.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoons I love to absorb the pages from the small collection of reference books I’ve gathered about the island, mostly old secondhand ones.
After I have been out and about in the mornings I come back to the house and look up what I have seen, something as simple as a street name or even a strange fish in the water, I will look it up.
The knowledge always leads me down a rabbit hole of sorts.
One such indigenous curiosity I was intrigued by was ‘eugaries’, commonly known as pipis.
All my reference books refer to the eugarie in one way or another, as they played a big role in the diet for the Indigenous People of this area and also all down the east coast of Australia and across to South Australia for thousands of years.
Midden sites, which are places where Indigenous Australians would have gathered to share meals of collected eugaries and oysters and other shellfish provide an important link to Aboriginal culture and the past. Seeing the remains of the eugarie shells are symbolic and shows where people would have come together.
Eugarie is a saltwater clam, a mollusc. Where there is surf, there is eugaries. They used to be quite common, however in recent years they have been over-collected, so you have to keep your eyes open for little sandy mounds along the tideline if you would like to collect a few. It’s a great thing to do with kids too!
When you come across the little mounds along the water, place your hand just under the sand for a feel around and if you are lucky your fingertips will touch the hard shell of the eugarie.
It’s so exciting!
You can use your hand or for a bit of fun use your heel and twist onto of the sand mound to feel the eugarie – if you use your heel it’s called the ‘pipi shuffle’, as it’s like a bit of a dance as you spin your heel.
There are other methods which include pumps and pipes and butterknives, but that just doesn’t feel right or particularly fair to the little eugarie.
Beaches limit the collection to 30 shells, which is more than enough for a lunch or dinner. But check your state guidelines, as rules change from state to state.
They have a lovely sweet taste to them and although fisherman prefer to use them as bait, I think they are absolutely delicious on the hot plate of a bbq steamed or in a pasta, plus they are a great way to taste indigenous flavours.
I decided to make a really simple wholesome pasta with a handful of ingredients and use the collected eugaries this way and bulked it up with the spaghetti, so it felt more like a meal.
If you don’t live by the sea you can still find these at your local fish shop. Just ask for wild pipis or clams.
And if you are lucky to live by the sea, remember to only take what you need, that way there will always be more for next time.
Hot tip – will need to ‘purge’ your eugaries overnight or else you will feel the crunch of sand in your mouth. It’s really simple, it just means collecting a container of salt water and popping all the eugarie in. This allows your gathered eugarie to relax and open their shells a little and release sand which would have been caught up in there while being collected. Whatever you do don’t refrigerate them.