Mofongo Relleno de Carrucho
That's what I had one night for dinner last week in Puerto Rico, and I can't stop thinking about it. Plantains stuffed with conch, that is. About twenty of us, all guests at a friend's wedding, stormed into a rather bleak-looking boardwalk taverna, no doubt terrifying the kitchen staff, but one long hour later the food started rolling out, and what I had was well worth the wait. Mashed, garlicky plantain lined the inside of a large ceramic cup, and inside that was a mixture of a spicy tomato-and-conch stew. At first I thought the conch meat was cut up into lots of little pieces - I had never eaten it before, and had imagined it would be about the size of a piece of abalone (not that I've ever eaten that, either) - but gradually I realized, no, I was just consuming lots and lots of the critters. Sorry, guys.
This is a conch shell I found among the tangle of mangrove branches on a little island we kayaked to. Chances are good that I was not supposed to remove said shell from the island, so scold me if you will, but there were tons of them. I had no idea such a showy shell could be so plentiful - I pretty much assumed they could only be found on the shelves of souvenir shops these days. But these were lying around like so much trash, along with broken bits of coral and tiny pink and green shells that slowly grew legs and scuttled away as I crouched amidst them, stealthy hermit crabs going about their Caribbean business.