Abalone a treat for fund-raiser
Vern Kimmey of North San Juan was an electronics technician, teacher and traveling salesman during his working days, but he’s been a scuba diver for 45 years “strictly for fun.”
Kimmey’s diving skills have come in handy for Sierra Services for the Blind, which relies on him and his friends to supply the main course for the agency’s annual abalone banquet fund-raiser.
Harvesting enough abalone to feed up to 200 people is not easy these days. Divers are limited to three abalone a day and 24 a year, and most of the good ones are beyond the reach of the average diver.
“Abalone is becoming so scarce that most of the good ones are 60 feet down,” Kimmey said. “Most divers can’t go below 30.”
So Kimmey, 76, and four friends start making regular trips to the Fort Bragg/Mendocino area when the season opens April 1. The best abalone they catch is put on dry ice for the banquet.
Final preparation for the dinner is a Kimmey family affair. The grandsons pound the abalone – that takes at least three hours – and Kimmey’s daughters prepare the main course.
“I have the dirty job,” he chuckled. “I have to supervise.”
The six previous abalone banquets raised over $30,000 for Sierra Services, which provides a variety of services free of charge to about 400 people with vision problems.
“We’re the only nonprofit for visually impaired people in rural areas, according to a government report,” he said. “While most of our clients are seniors, we service people from 4 years old and up.”
Kimmey became involved with the agency when his wife, Kathryn, became a client. He took her seat on the board of directors and is currently president of the board.
Kimmey and other supporters of the organization recently asked the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to help keep the agency afloat. Kimmey told the supervisors the organization will need to close if its upcoming fund-raising efforts aren’t successful.
Know and go
What: 7th annual Abalone Banquet, to benefit Sierra Services for the Blind
Cost: $100 per person
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Miners Foundry, 325 Spring St., Nevada City
Information: 265-2121 for tickets
What is Abalone?
Abalone is a mollusk. It has one shell, instead of two like a clam, and a muscular foot which it uses to cling to rocks and other surfaces underwater. The genus of abalone, Haliotis, means sea ear and is a reference to the flattened shape of its shell.
Inside the shell, iridescent colors are present and the shells are a source of mother-of-pearl. The foot is the part that is generally used for food in the U.S.; the very tough meat must be pounded to tenderize it enough to be eaten.
Fishing for abalone in California is done by divers who remove the creatures by hand or with an abalone iron, a device which pries them from the surface to which they are clinging. The decreasing numbers of abalone and difficulty of gathering them makes the meat fairly expensive.
Most commonly taken is the red abalone, which can be found from Oregon to Baja California.
Information gathered from a University of California-Davis publication.
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