One of my personal chef clients has a summer house bathed in seashells–it has a seashell name, seashell-themed dinnerware by Tiffany and Versace, shell-shaped salad servers, conch shells of descending size lining the mantle, etc. The other night, I caught a very unsuspecting guest in a rather surprising moment. He’d sized up a nice arrangement of vintage Porto, situated on a large tray with adorable multicolored Port glasses and a three-tiered glass cake stand that looked fit for petit fours, or some other impossibly small and cute confection. On this triple-decker stand were perhaps a hundred perfectly sweet-looking sea urchin shells. I watched this man pick one up and bite into it, thinking he was sneaking part of dessert before everyone else.
My first thought was “Well, that’s strange. I’ve worked here all these years and never knew those were edible.” A few seconds later, his face revealed that the urchins were most definitely NOT edible. No one knows whether he actually swallowed the shells or spat them out somewhere, but we did find the uneaten half of one unlucky decorative seashell in his dinner napkin.