Sterling | "Abalone Song"

By California Legacy Project

Fresh sea food has become a staple of that style of cooking now known as California Cuisine, which emphasizes the kind of fresh ingredients that are abundant here in the Golden State. But long before Wolfgang Puck became a household hero, Carmel artists were already singing the praises of one of our most delicious—and now protected—varieties of sea food.

In the early part of the twentieth century, the sturdy mollusk called abalone became the subject of a ballad. "The Abalone Song" was a collaborative work which—-among others—featured the talents of poet George Sterling. Here are a few of its verses.

    Oh! Some folks boast of quail on toast,
    Because they think it's tony;
    But I'm content to owe my rent,
    And live on abalone.

    Oh! Mission Point's a friendly joint,
    Where every crab's a crony,
    And true and kind you'll ever find
    The clinging abalone.

    He wanders free beside the sea,
    Where e'er the coast is stony;
    He flaps his wings and madly sings–
    The plaintive abalone.

    By Carmel Bay, the people say,
    We feed the lazzaroni
    On Boston beans and fresh sardines,
    And toothsome abalone.

For a time, George Sterling was a leading member of Carmel bohemian society, a noted poet and a friend of writers like Jack London, Robinson Jeffers, and Mary Austin.

Listen to the MP3 of this broadcast

California Legacy Project, Santa Clara University English Department, Santa Clara University