Dear Dana:

Sorry to hear about your scallop trouble. Any allergy that results in such violent illness that a shiitake mushroom pops out of your nose needs to be respected. Scallops are funny, though. Did you know that the scallop has fifty eyes, and that they're blue? They are very simple eyes, naturally, just tiny bluish light-sensing neural dots arranged around the edge. They can "see" predators approaching and shadowing them, and they clap their shells together and fly away. I used to see them do this in their tanks at the Seattle Aquarium when I volunteered there. It's been on some nature shows, too. The part of the scallop that humans eat is the strong, lean muscle that does the shell-clapping. That's why you don't see any weird, greenish-black guts in there, like you do with other bivalves.

There's no point in mussels having eyes. That would just be cruel. Mussels are screwed, when it comes to predators. Mussels attach themselves to rocks and piers by producing byssal threads, those dark or amber-colored, really tough, ... thready things that are always stuck on their shells. Byssal threads are such a good adhesive that adhesive companies have tried to reproduce that material. Maybe they've already succeeded. Try to stand up now, as an experiment. If you can't, you're a mussel. But you can always cheer yourself up by buying some stuff. In fact, that's what the adhesive companies had in mind. Mussels look sort of like female genitalia. To me, anyway.

Clams escape from predators by digging. When you find a clamshell with a neat round hole drilled in it, you'll know that one didn't dig fast enough. Predators that can't steam clams open, or bash them on rocks or pry them apart with their beaks, usually have raspy tongues they use to drill right through the shell, and then they suck them out. You could really wear out your tongue if you try this. It's a bad idea. And don't try to suck them out, if you do. There could be sand in there. If you buy live clams in order to murder and eat them, put them in a bucket of water with some cornmeal for "a while," don't ask me how long, and they will oblige you by eating the cornmeal and expelling the sand. You'll still be eating clam shit, but it won't be sandy. The foot of the large Pacific Northwest clam known as the geoduck looks sort of like male genitalia. To me, anyway.

Oysters are the ones everyone thinks of as an aphrodisiac. It must be the zinc. They don't look like anyone's genitalia. Except to another oyster. I can't tell you much about them, except that large-scale oystering is done with dredges and is pretty destructive; it's strip-mining for food. Also, something about pearls. If your life is crappy (say, you're vomiting so hard that a mushroom comes out of your nose) and some idiot tries to tell you that the wise old oyster takes life's little irritations and turns them into lovely pearls, remember: there's nothing in it for the oyster.