Abalone Ash Tray

Outside the front entrance to Anna's Asian House restaurant, guests may stub out their cigarettes in this carefully presented abalone shell.

Sport fishing of abalone is only allowed in California north of San Francisco, and there are strict limits on the number and size anyone can gather. The "bag limit" is only three a day, 24 a season. The edible part is the big foot muscle of this big flat snail, and it has a flavor something like scallops. The meat can be quite tough unless it's pounded thoroughly with a toothy kitchen mallet. My grandfather used to prepare them for us, but it was a rare treat. Because the resource is limited, no commercial sale of abalone is allowed.

Having said all that, there's hardly an old barn or farmhouse in this region that doesn't have a few of these "red" abalone shells around.