The Life of a Percebeiro


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In the northwest corner of Spain, in the coastal region of Galicia, fishermen boat into fjord-like inlets called rias and rappel from slick rocks to collect gooseneck barnacles in crashing surf. They hang down in pairs and watch each other's backs as they scrape and claw the crustaceans from slick six-foot sections of barnacle-tiled rocks battered by frigid waves. This is a daily routine that can earn them a fine payday, especially around Christmas, when the food is prized. The Spanish call the barnacles percebe, a derivation of the Latin word for thumb, and at some restaurants consumers will pay $2 for a delicacy that looks something like said dark, wrinkled digit. Looks don't really matter, as many websites list the expensive crustacean as the country's favorite seafood. They are said to taste sweeter than a spiny lobster and somehow more like the sea.

In Sea Bites, director David Berain chronicled the life and work of one percebeiro, a man named Serxo who braves the cold and sometimes harsh waters of the coast daily to harvest the delicacy. Berain is a Spanish war correspondent who has covered conflicts in Iran, Afghanistan, and Kashmir, among others. In the behind-the-scenes video below, you get a glimpse of the toys he used and sketchy situations he put himself in to make the film. The clip brings you even more into the life of Serxo, a fisherman whose daily existence involves a healthy serving of risk.

For more on percebes, check out “Fare of the Country; Galicia's Hard-to-Come-by Barnacles.”

—Joe Spring