The People Who Dive for New York’s Hottest New Ingredient Are Stone-Cold Badasses
Appearing on a handful of menus around town these days are gooseneck barnacles, otherwise known by their Spanish name percebes. They're served by the bowlful at Huertas and cooked on the plancha at Toro. As this great Times story demonstrates today — diver head-cam video and all — getting these strange little hangers-on to your table is basically never anything less than an insane threat to life and limb.
Turns out these Jurassic-looking sea creatures can withstand extreme water turbulence and then some, so they're only collected during low tides, usually at dawn, heroically, by divers on the hazardous Galician coast, who scrape them off rocks that are jagged like the pointy throne in Game of Thrones but probably a lot pointier. "It's normal to run into trouble," one of them reports matter-of-factly. "I have 36 stitches in my legs, and 18 in my armpit." And if that's not enough, with Spain's economy still in the hole, there are barnacle poachers, too, who've brought down the price, depleted the ecosystem, and often turn to violence. For all of this, these men and women take home about $40 a pound. "There are always problems," the diver in the accompanying video says, as if that weren't already immediately apparent.