No time for anything fancy on the feast of St. James? Still want to make it fun? A really simple idea is to just serve anything in a scallop shell. Since I had purchased the large shells for the Coquilles St.-Jacques dish, I realized how fun it would be to use for any serving on St. James day. The shells are available at many craft stores and kitchen stores, as well as online outlets like Amazon.
Try serving up a condiment or spice like sea salt pictured here.
The scallop makes a nice sized side dish for serving up salad or fresh fruit.
A fun dish for snack time, apple slices, orange wedges, carrot stick, etc. Pictured here are goldfish crackers since St. James was both a fisherman and a "fisher of men."
How about cookies?
It is a great little dish for a dessert, like ice cream for a warm July evening.
The possibilities are numerous. Enjoy!
Why a scallop shell?
The scallop shell is a common symbol of St. James and is associated with travelers/pilgrims especially on the Camino de Santiago. Earliest connection of the scallop shell to the Camino and saint James is dated in the 10th century. The shell is commonly found on the shores of Galicia and served as a proof of completion of the pilgrimage. In a practical sense, the shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl.
There is a legend with a couple versions linking St. James to the shell. One says that after St. James' death, his disciples took his body by ship to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried. Off the coast a storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, the body washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops. Another version states, that as the ship carrying St. James' body approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young bridegroom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse got spooked, and the horse and rider plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, the horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells.
There are two metaphors I have seen for the shells. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, could represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination at the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell could also represent the pilgrim. As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God's hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago.
Whatever the meaning – the various symbolism and stories associated with the scallop and St. James, make it a great visual for the feast day.