BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Forever young. Skip Tuttle, 79, heading out yesterday morning for the opening day of scallop season For East End families who fish, the first Monday in November — opening day for bay scallops in New York State waters — is a ...

 


They're back: Peconic bay scallop season under way

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO
Forever young. Skip Tuttle, 79, heading out yesterday morning for the opening day of scallop season

For East End families who fish, the first Monday in November — opening day for bay scallops in New York State waters — is a ritual not to be missed.

This year Shelter Island resident John Tehan was joined by his son Michael, who lives in Cutchogue. They left Congdons Creek on the east side of Shelter Island around 7:30 a.m. facing stiff winds and rain most of the day and fetched up on the other side of the Island nine hours later, wet and tired, but still speaking to each other.

They unloaded bushel bags of scallops in a parking lot on Bridge Street several miles away from their truck.

As they lifted damp burlap sacks full of enormous scallops, Jillian helpfully pointed out that if her father had taken her suggestion to go to Noyack in the first place, they wouldn’t have wasted time in the northwest, and the low tide that was causing them to hoist the bags four feet from the deck of the boat to the back of the pickup would have been on their side.

The captain did not argue the point.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO
Jillian and John Kotula unloading scallops Monday at the Congdons Creek dock.

The Kotulas headed home, where they would be joined by the rest of the family, armed with scallop knives, ready to shuck for as long as it took.

Bay scallop harvests have always been cyclical, but were once worth over a $1 million to East End commercial fishermen, even in down years. Environmental factors, such as runoff from fertilizers and antiquated septic systems have hurt the fishery during some recent years. But with improvements in water quality and a successful and ongoing reseeding program, the scallop population has gradually rebounded. Last year accounted for $1.57 million of revenue, the highest value harvest in New York since the 1994 harvest of $1.76 million.

Discussing the lessons of the day in the late afternoon at the Congdons Creek town dock, the general consensus of the scallopers, including those who had ventured out as well as those who were gathering intel for later, was that Noyack had scallops.

Opening scallops, which must be done as soon as possible after they are caught, can be more work than catching them. Bayman Sawyer Clark, 20, who had his 10 bushels limit by 10:30 a.m., was grateful for an assist with opening from his grandmother Ann, who was pretty sure Sawyer knew how to open scallops before he got his license to fish as a preschooler.

“Just catching them is easy,” he said. “It’s standing there for 10 hours opening that’s hard.”

Charlie Manwaring would have liked to buy even more Peconic Bay scallops from baymen for Southold Fish Market on Monday, “The size of the shells, the meats, are beautiful,” he said.

He brightened when asked about his ace crew of scallop openers. “I actually got my old crew back from last year,” he said. “That’s the hardest part. It takes a lot of time to open them.”

Mr. Manwaring said it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the season based on a very windy first day. “It’s not a good account of what is to come,” he said. “A lot of guys didn’t go today.”

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO
A blue-eyed scallop from John and Michael Tehan’s hard-earned bushels.

Since the number of scallops that made it into his store on opening day was down from last year, Mr. Manwaring set the price for the first day at $20 a pound, higher than last year.

He said scallop counts might be lower due to the wind that turned some scallopers back and drove seas that gave others a drenching.

“The east wind was not our friend,” he added.

Survey says scallop numbers trending up

For 14 years, marine biologists have inspected the same 20 underwater sites from Flanders Bay in the West to Orient in the East twice a year, counting and measuring bay scallops at each site to document population changes.

In the October 2018 survey, numbers of adult scallops were roughly the same as 2017, which was the most valuable harvest in two decades. Even better, the numbers for seed scallops were much higher than last year, and since these are the scallops that will spawn in spring, and be harvested next fall, there is reason to hope for a strong harvest in 2019.

Professor Stephen Tettelbach of Long Island University and his team made another positive observation during the October dives. They documented growth rings in some mature scallops that indicate they are the result of a second spawn in fall 2017, and could fuel more population growth if these middle-aged scallops live to spawn again in 2019.

    
 

Amazon HQ2 on Shelter Island- A modest proposal

COURTESY ILLUSTRATION

One of America’s top companies is narrowing down the search for a location for its new headquarters — a choice that could bring 50,000 jobs and $5 billion of construction investment to some lucky place in North America. How about here?

Amazon, the company that generates 43 percent of U.S. online sales, is in the final stages of the search, and even though they would not consider it, and we would not allow it, I enjoy thinking about what would happen if they chose an Island with ferry-only access, 100 miles east of New York, as an East Coast bookend for their current Seattle digs.

It would be the largest company to locate on Shelter Island since the Lima Bean Farmers Cooperative began to grow and process frozen beans in 1951.

The competition to be Amazon’s new home has given the company an excuse to detail its hopes, dreams and values like a contestant on The Bachelor. The wish list for Amazon’s new headquarters includes population, (over one million should be enough) a well-educated populace, access to recreation, (a lot is good) and proximity to universities. This list closely reflects my own process when choosing a place to live, what kind of car to drive, or a mate; do a lot of research, and find something outdoorsy and smart.

Although the last census put the population within commuting distance of Shelter Island at under half a million, we all know those figures are suspect. Like the lima bean thing, we don’t need to get too specific. Besides, Amazon currently supplements its human workforce with 45,000 robots in its warehouses, and will undoubtedly be hiring some to work in HQ2.

If Amazon did come here, we’d have new words to learn. It is said there are no workers or bosses at Amazon, only associates, and those associates are never fired, they are released like undersize porgy. Like many American companies, they refer to their warehouses as fulfillment centers. This moniker is a little confusing to me, since I think of a fulfillment center as place where happiness is attained, and in this case it’s a place where happiness is temporarily stored, packaged and sent out for delivery.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview with Washington Business Journal that he likes to putter around in the morning, and he doesn’t have meetings before 10 a.m., a practice entirely in keeping with the pace of life on Shelter Island, where pretty much everyone is either taking their kids to school, working around the house (theirs or someone else’s) or engrossed in sweeping, mulching, and dump-visiting early in the day.

Amazon loves to brag about its scrappy, thrifty corporate culture as reflected in their celebration of the door desk, a staple of office furniture that, according to legend, Bezos invented when he visited Home Depot and realized he could save some money. He bought a door, attached some 4X4s, and christened it a door desk. It was by all accounts, very wobbly. On Shelter Island, we just call it a desk, and thanks to the skills of our populace, ours don’t usually wobble.

One of the suggestions in Amazon’s request for site proposals is a place that will think creatively about real estate. Finding imaginative solutions to housing problems is in our DNA, as our many citizens who have lived for extended periods on a boat moored in Dering Harbor can tell you.

Another carrot of opportunity that Amazon is dangling before the noses of civic leaders is a $15 an hour minimum wage, which sounds like a lot except the New York State minimum wage for Long Island is set to rise to $15 an hour by 2021.

It’s true that Shelter Island didn’t even make the short list for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, but that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming big. All it would take Jeff Bezos to fall in love with Shelter Island is a 15-minute ferry ride, and everyone knows that a person in love can do irrational things.

    
 

Fear the pumpkin? Savor the squash.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTOS Roasting squash in a sheet pan is fast and you get a nice crust.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTOS
Roasting squash in a sheet pan is fast and you get a nice crust.

Because I have tried to operate a motor vehicle on the North Fork during a weekend in October, I fear the pumpkin. The influx of visitors looking for parking generated by pumpkin-picking opportunities combined with the wanton use of pumpkin spices in everything from coffee to dog biscuits (yes, really) are why I see pumpkins as potentially dangerous.

That’s why butternut is my preferred winter squash, and I add ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves (the components of pumpkin spice) to my food one at a time. Food trends eventually cross the line from something new and different to ‘oh no, not again,’ and I think that’s what happened to pumpkin spice.

These two recipes both use butternut squash and a sheet pan. The crispy squash is a side dish, but it is hearty enough to be a main and the sheet pan ice cream is as creamy as if it were churned thanks to the pureed squash.

Crispy Sheet Pan Squash, adapted
from Elizabeth Schneider’s
“Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini”

This makes six servings as a side dish or three as a main dish.

2 and ½ lbs. of butternut squash.

1 and ½ tablespoons of flour

½ teaspoon sugar

1 minced garlic pod

½ teaspoon dried sage or four fresh leaves torn into pieces

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Peel and halve the squash, scoop out the seeds and cut the flesh into 2-inch chunks.

Mix flour, sugar, garlic, sage, salt and several grinds of pepper in a large steel bowl, toss in the squash chunks, and shake to cover them evenly. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil and toss again.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, spread the squash out in an even layer and dribble the rest of the olive oil over it.

Cover the sheet pan with foil and cut a few slits into it to allow some steam to escape. Bake for 40 minutes, remove the foil, stir the squash, turn the oven up to 425 degrees, move the pan to a rack closer to the source of heat and cook about 30 minutes until the squash browns.

Pumpkin Spice Sheet Pan Ice Cream

1 lb. butternut squash

3/4 cup whole milk

2/3 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Half a nutmeg, grated, (about a teaspoon ground)

1 1/2 cups whole cream

Roast one unpeeled butternut squash at 475 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until very soft.

Cool, scoop out the flesh and puree one and ½ cup of it in the food-processor with 1/2 cup of the cream and 1/3 cup of the sugar.

Blend the milk and the rest of sugar together with a whisk. Add the vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

Using a box grater, grate ½ of a nutmeg into the mixture.

Add the cream and the milk mixture to the squash mixture in the food processor and puree until smooth.

Spread the mixture in an even layer in a metal sheet pan, cover it with plastic wrap and chill in freezer for 2 hours until it is firm but soft enough to scoop. If you prefer to use an ice-cream maker, cool the mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator, before churning it.

Pumpkin spice sheet pan ice cream.

Pumpkin spice sheet pan ice cream.

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Shelter Island native with Asperger's makes his way

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO
Alex Olinkiewicz at his home on Midway Road.

When Alex Olinkiewicz was 16, he made an eight-minute video about what it’s like to have Asperger’s syndrome and posted it on YouTube. Not long after, he opened his email to see that his video, In My Mind, was on YouTube’s featured list and he had 200 emails from people who had seen it. “It was the best day of my life,” he said. 

Twelve years later, there have been more than 1.5 million views of Alex’s video, and hundreds of thousands of those viewers have contacted him, mostly to thank him. “It made a huge impact on my life, and it gave me a calling,” he said.

Alex was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a subtype of autism, when he was 6. Now 28, he’s spent decades learning to live in the world he was born into, and the last decade explaining his world to others. On both fronts, he has made a lot of progress.

Alex’s parents divorced when he was a kid, and he makes regular visits to his mother, who lives in Maine. His father, Jim Olinkiewicz, is a builder who lives on the Island. Alex went to the Shelter Island School, graduated in 2009 and lives on his own in a house on Midway Road. 

When Alex was a child, his parents knew that he had difficulty fitting in, and when he entered the Shelter Island School, the counselor there said they could help him once he had a diagnosis. Although Alex did not understand it at the time, years later he figured out that when his parents told him that his brain worked differently than other people’s, it was because he had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, although it would be years before he knew the name of his condition.

Autism often comes with extreme sensitivities and muscular discomfort, and Alex could only sit for long periods with his legs folded, not in a chair. Loud noises or screams hurt him, music was painful. Reading was very difficult for him, and he had to learn to use a narrating program to get through his assignments.

A ray of light during Alex’s difficult school years was Robin Anderson, the special education teacher. “She was my first and true friend. I went to her every single day for the entire 12 years I was in school. We talked, she helped me with my homework. She had tea and goldfish crackers. I liked hanging out with her.”

Alex’s efforts to adapt to school life put him under daily stress, and it wasn’t until high school that he made an important discovery.  When he explained to people why something was difficult for him, it helped. “I can’t just translate words. My mind has pictures, not words,” he said.  “I decided to start explaining it, and that led me to make Inside My Mind.

In 2012, Alex wrote a book based on his transcribed conversations and illustrations titled In My Mind — A Journey Through My Life with Asperger’s/Autism. Initially self-published, it was published again by Future Horizons in 2014.

In a school of only a few hundred students, Alex was the only one diagnosed with autism for most of his time there. “It was hell for me,” he said. “I wasn’t bullied or anything, but I was very much an outcast. Once I made my video I think my classmates understood me better.”

To promote his book and video, Alex attended conferences and even did some speaking. At one conference he met Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-known autism spokesperson. He was surprised that Dr. Grandin, who is also on the autism spectrum, had a manner and way of speaking that were very strange to him. “She’s a farmer girl. That’s her personality. I’m not much of an animal person,” he said. “We had lunch, and she told me, ‘The first thing you need to do is get rid of that big gut.’”

Alex worked for a time at his grandfather’s video store in the Heights, and after his Dad bought a gas station and store, Alex worked the cash register. But standing caused him pain in his legs, and even with a special chair his father put in for him, Alex struggled with the stress of standing and the constant flow of strangers coming in.

In the years after Alex graduated from high school, he continued to develop his independence and ability to take care of himself. He began to carefully monitor the food he ate, changing his diet, and gradually losing excess weight. He learned to prepare his own favorite foods, usually pasta with cheese, or pizza. And although he once thought it impossible, with his dad’s encouragement, he learned to drive.

“I thought I would never learn to drive because I sit Indian style and I panic in crowded conditions. My dad said drive, and I did even though I was irritated in the legs,” he said.  “I was practicing in the parking lot at Wades Beach, when something clicked in my head. I started to get giddy because I was getting the hang of it. Now, I’m the designated driver for my family because I’m a straight edge.” 

One night, on the way home from seeing the movie, “Boyhood,” together, Alex’s dad told him he thought the time was right to try college. Alex wasn’t so sure. His dad argued that now that he knew how to drive, and had gotten control of his weight, college might make sense.

Around the time that Alex graduated from high school, he began to get interested in video games, and began to play one called BioShock. “It grabbed me,” he said. “It showed me what games are capable of.” 

At 23, five years after graduating from high school, Alex enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online and began to study game development. There were prerequisites, like a class in mathematics, and another in the basics of art. Along the way, Alex discovered that he had skills he never suspected. “I thought I would be a B, C student, but I left with a 3.9.”

In one of his college classes, Alex, working together with other students on a team, did the programming and modelling for a video game called FrostBite: Deadly Climate, that so impressed one of his professors that he suggested Alex continue to develop the game beyond the class.

Now Alex is working on a new game, assembling a tech demo and contemplating a Kickstarter campaign to help finance it. His new game is called PaperCut, and it takes place in a papercraft world, in which an evil psychologist who believes in Creationism tries to make a new world, declaring, ‘Space is God’s Canvas. Paper is mine.’

Alex said no one has done more to help him than his father. “My Dad gave me his support. Now that I’m out of college, I’m going to have to step out.”

He said he was lucky to grow up in the safety and familiarity of Shelter Island, but he feels the need to get away. “I am somebody young, who is already isolated due to his disorder, I need to break out more, even though I have my fears of leaving the Island and concerns about going somewhere else.”

Alex has achieved one of the most important markers of maturity – comfort in his own skin – and it’s part of what makes him so good at explaining autism to people who don’t get it. “If there was a cure for Asperger’s I wouldn’t take it,” he said. “I have problems because things were designed for the majority, but maybe my mind was made this way so I can achieve something different.”