Cockles-do-we-do!

Here’s a Lieberman family fact for you: Norman’s Air Freight — my family’s fourth-generation seafood distribution company, which was started by my great-grandfather Norman back in 1947 — is the premiere distributor of New Zealand cockles in NYC.

What’s a cockle, you ask? Well, it’s that wee little clam that’s often found in linguini with clam sauce. Tossed with garlic and oil, it’s a chewy, yummy little sucker.

Some time over the last few years, my good friend Kirsten — a Kiwi — heard that we bring in cockles from her home country, prompting her to ask:

“Oh, have you ever had cockles in a paper cone? That’s how they serve them in London!”

Well, no. I hadn’t! But now I was intrigued and convinced there could be something more to these little suckers that only we bring onto our Eastern seashores.

See, when people hear my family runs a business, they always ask, “How come you didn’t get involved?”

Aside from the fact that I didn’t want to spend my life smelling like fish, I always say, “Well, I’m a writer, that’s why.”

But when I learned about these “cockles in a cone,” all I could think was: I bet the finger-licking foodie hordes of NYC would (here comes the pun) eat them right up! We — or maybe I — should get on this.

I can see it now: a stand at Smorgasburg and Hester Street Fair, serving up cooked, de-shelled cockles in newspaper just like they do here in East London. (Salt, vinegar sauce and chips on the side, natch.)

I’ve been talking about it to anyone who will listen for YEARS, and so it’s been my mission since arriving to research these “cockles served in cones.” Well, this past Sunday, I finally found them with my brother in Leigh-on-Sea, a small little village in Essex, known primarily for their cockles.

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The first of many cockle sheds in Leigh-on-Sea.

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It was way low-tide when we were there.

Leigh-on-Sea...or should I say, Leigh-on-Land.

Leigh-on-Sea…or should I say, Leigh-on-Land.

They weren’t served in a cone, but rather in a styrofoam cup or on a plate with other shellfish. Sadly, they weren’t all that delicious either. (Bit sandy and fish for my taste.) But according to my Dad, these cockles are different from the ones we bring in. Plus, they were still an obvious delicacy, as people were slurping them down in droves. It being the first beautiful Sunday of the season, these bit-sized fleshy nuggets seemed to be the perfect seaside summer bite for locals.

Osbourne Bros. seemed to be the ace purveyor in the area selling both wholesale and retail.

Osbourne Bros. – The ace purveyor in the area selling both wholesale and retail.

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Cockles on the plate, but chips in a cone!

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I also tried jellied eels….eeek.

So watch out, Luke’s Lobster. Norman’s (or maybe just me — pops and bro are not as enthusiastic as I am) could be nipping at your fishing line soon. You heard it here first. Patent pending and investors welcome…

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