"Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true gauge,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage."

--Sir Walter Raleigh in The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage

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This beautifully shaped bivalve mollusk has long been associated with St. James--or "Santiago" as pilgrims have called him through the centuries as they made their way to Compostela, Spain, to visit the supposed tomb of this Apostle, carrying the distinctive "cockles" in their caps.

The living mollusk lives in this winged cockle of radiating ridges--and moves through the water by literally flapping its shells. When it is harvested, however, only its adductor muscle (the muscle that closes the shell) is cut out and used as food.

Although there are many species of scallop, they are classified in two broad groups: the small bay scallop, whose meat can range from a delicate pink to creamy white but is uniformly succulent and sweet. The sea scallop, or common scallop, is found on the Atlantic coast of the United States from Cape Cod south. Its meat is translucent white and generally is about 1 to 2 inches in diameter.