Rye Bay Scallop Week has helped 1066 country celebrate its coastal views and seasonal delicacies for 18 years now and, from February 22 to March 1, it will do so again.
First and Foremost, of course, the week celebrates the peak of the scallop season, the point at which the seafood luxury will be at its best
Rye’s many restaurants serve scallop-based specials throughout the week, and the festival hosts tasting evenings, live music events, quiz nights and cookery classes to help visitors get to grips with the clam at its fresh-from-the-sea best.
This year’s event will be no different. Specials vary from restaurant to restaurant and food truck to food truck. One dish at The Ship Inn serves them seared, with a pea purée and butternut squash risotto, whilst another at The Landgate Bistro’s Scallop Bash- a seven course extravaganza taking place on Friday February 28- dishes them up with pomegranate and parsnip in a meal set to showcase the crustacean’s versatile potential.
Though the Rye Bay Scallop week started relatively recently- in 2003- scallops themselves have a long ecological and cultural heritage.
The earliest scallop fossils, for example, date back to over three million years ago, and their shell has a long history in heraldic symbolism, appearing on Princess Diana’s coat of arms and Prince Williams Knights of the Garter crest.
The scallop shell is also significant in Christian imagery. It is mostly associated with St James the Great, the patron saint of Spain and one of the first followers of Jesus. Medieval pilgrims travelling to his shrine in Santiago de Compostela would often collect a scallop shell whilst there, evidence of having made the journey. The association comes, allegedly from a legend in which the apostle rescued a knight covered in scallops.
Nothing quite matches up to the real thing, however and, though they appear on restaurant menus all over the world, nowhere does scallops quite like the Rye Bay Festival does scallops.
Graeham Foster, a self-confessed foodie and the man behind the Rye Food Fellas series said: “Apart from perhaps the North-West coast of Scotland where you can fish all round, Rye Bay Scallops are particularly good.”
“Rye is a very creative town anyway- a lot of artists live around here- and food is a really big part of that culture.”
Oliver Campion, who helps organise the festival added: “It really is a labour of love. All of the emails and driving around and organising it takes... I dread to think how many hours must go into the organisation of this festival.”
“If I were doing it for recognition, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
To find out more about The Rye Bay Scallop Festival, see a full list of venues and keep tabs on its live music listings, visit www.scallop.org.uk
Events will be held in a variety of venues throughout town, so prices may vary.