Eating mussels (not muscles; you only make that mistake once, I can assure you) is a strangely indulgent activity.
I had the great good fortune of having them at Belga Café last night. But when the waitress first put them down in front of me, I wondered why, exactly I had ordered them. There they were, piled in a steaming heap, their internal organs hanging limply from their open shells, bathed in garlic and wine and butter.
My first two beers at the Hawk-n-Dove, and the subsequent Duvel at Belga, got me to musing about what exactly I was about to eat. My thoughts left me reticent to shove the first peach-colored mollusk into my mouth. You see, I was at a loss as to what part of the mussel I was actually eating. Unlike crabs, where you know when you’re eating a leg or a claw or an eye stalk, or even beef, where you can at least identify which part of the cow you’re devouring: rib eye or rump or tongue, the mussel remains a mystery. The answer is, of course, that you eat all of the parts of a mussel: lips, brains, toenails, eye balls, and all. (I’m just speculating here, never having taken the time to really study a mussel.)
My reticence only lasted as long as it took me to tear the first mussel from its shell and raise it to my lips. I ate the entire vat, plus a few of my wife’s mussels as well, in a silent slurpy frenzy. The frites with mayo and a couple of Belgian ales later, and I couldn’t care less what parts of a mussel I ate, as long as I didn’t eat the shells. Although, truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have minded those very much, either.