Walking into Bob Tourigny's Wareham office, you'd be surprised to learn that this branch manager of Gateway Funding handles reverse mortgages in the morning and shellfish in the afternoon.
The youthful-looking 65-year-old has been farming oysters and clams on his Onset grant for the past three years. But he's been eating the fruits of the sea for a lot longer than that.
"I came to Onset for a weekend when I was 17," he explains, "to visit my high school sweetheart from Worcester whose parents were renting a house here." It was Rose's parents who taught him how to dig clams and run a boat. From the first, he was fascinated by the ocean.
That weekend he said to his girlfriend: "Someday I'm going to live here and if we're lucky, we'll do it together."
After studying business at Worcester College, Bob started out in real estate. He and Rose had two sons and in summers the family rented a house in Onset. Twenty-eight years ago, they moved there permanently from Western Mass. Today their sons are 41 and 39, and Mike runs Coastal Plumbing and Radiant Heat in Wareham, while Pete manages the branch of Gateway Funding in Manhattan Beach, CA. Three out of four grand-daughters live nearby.
When asked what he likes to do, his answers involve the ocean. "The last movie I saw was 'The Graduate' -- the original one," he says. "I have an oceanfront home, and love just being there. If I'm not in the office or shellfishing, I'm fishing. I have a 24' pilot-house fishing boat and I take it out on both the ocean and the bay. I try not to go off the Cape often. The ocean itself is a constantly changing environment -- like waking up in a different house every day," he explains.
While digging and eating shellfish interested him from the beginning, he says "I always wanted to have more control of shellfish growing. I wanted to know there was a spot I could go and find it plentiful." Bob has gotten his wish. He and partner Dennis Pittsley sold 30,000 oysters in the past year from their 13-acre grant, and he has 200,000 that are almost at the 3" legal selling size.
As much as he's appreciated the business side of the grant, perhaps what most excites him is the "rave reviews" his Onset Oysters are getting. "I think our oysters taste so good and grow so quickly probably because of the fast-moving current near the Cape Cod Canal. We have a great site," he says, "and it's right in my front yard."
Bob also farms blue mussels and says "They're my favorite to eat, maybe because Rose, who's Italian, makes such a wonderful sauce." (You'll find her recipe below.)
Bob and Rose also eat naked raw oysters about once a week. His tip to assess freshness? "If you see it open a little bit, that's usually not a good sign," he explains. "But if you touch it and it closes right up, it's ok, because unless it's dead or dying, oysters have a natural instinct to close up."
Bob's love for the ocean hasn't wavered in nearly half a century. "It's going out on the ocean, or simply sitting back and watching it. It's looking out your window and being able to spot your next meal."
ROSE TOURIGNY'S RECIPE FOR PASTA WITH BLUE MUSSELS
Also featured on our recipes page
(USE NO SUBSTITUTES)
Ingredients: 1/8" extra virgin olive oil covering the pan bottom, 3/4 bulb fresh garlic peeled and separated, 3 lbs. (3-4dozen) blue mussels cleaned and debearded, black pepper to taste, crushed red pepper to taste, 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, butter, garlic powder, and l lb. linguine or spaghettini, or any pasta of choice. Serves 3-4.
Cover bottom of dutch oven with olive oil and garlic, then add mussels. Put a pat or two of butter on top and sprinkle garlic powder over that as well as the black and red pepper and parsley. Cover tightly and steam untiil mussels open, then reduce heat and steam for 3 more minutes. Cook pasta and be sure to drain thoroughly and place into a large serving bowl. Empty contents of mussel pan on top of pasta and enjoy!