A rake, a basket, a mud flat, and if you’re so inclined, a license.
Take what you need for dinner, eat them before the next low tide. I put the smallest and the largest back into the flat, tucking them into the mud, keeping a promise made years ago to my niece who loves clams but not killing.
November can be kind, but more often than not, the dying light is unkind to those creatures that depend on the sun.
But the creatures keep moving, and so do I, to the rhythm of the tides and the pull of the rake, one life feeding on another, grace for one, the abyss for the other.
The problem with recipes gets down to the problem with any written language—feigned immortality. If the goal is to get the exact same flavor, then you need the exact same ingredients grown at the exact same time after a season of the exact same weather.
Even then you will fail.
Consistent flavor easy to attain with processed foods. Your industrial producers have mastered consistency, but at a cost. (I am not about to knock processed foods—there is an undeniable comfort in consistency and salt.)
My wheat berries grown on a family farm came with an apology for their small size—it was the driest year in decades and well, plants need water. A tomato grown in my garden may taste slightly different than the one from yours. The clams I raked up yesterday are sweeter than the ones I hope to harvest in March.
Recipes are incredibly useful for proportions, for temperatures, for time in the oven—but not so much for ingredients. This one happened mostly by accident—I liked it so I wrote it down, but who am I fooling?
14 top neck quahogs
1 stick butter
1 celery stick chopped fine
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 tsp rosemary chopped fine
Few sprigs of rosemary to flavor the butter
¾ cup panko, though could use a little more (it’s all I had)
Red pepper flakes
Some chopped garlic, not too much
Some dry basil (my parsley patch seems to be gone)
Gobs of Parmesan cheese, to make up for the missing panko
Tiny splash of rosé wine for when your sauté goes south—it’s what was in the fridge, but it worked.
Cook the clams the usual way—simmer until open, chop the innards, save the broth.
Start the stuffing by melting a stick of butter. I like to add a few sprigs of rosemary while the butter melts. I take out the rosemary once it wilts.
Sauté the onions until they’re where you like them, then cool things down with splash of rosé.
Add the celery and chopped rosemary and let simmer a bit. Normally I would add the garlic here, but I forgot, and I think holding off the garlic until the end worked better.
Add pepper flakes to taste.
Dump and stir the panko, and when you realize that you do not have enough, add enough Parmesan cheese to let the whole thing clump together.
Scoop stuffing into half shells, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
Serve with some roasted Brussels sprouts and homemade rosemary/garlic bread.
Pursuing happiness is a big deal in this experiment called America. Public education is a big deal, too. Both are under fire.
I think a lot of unhappiness stems from our cultural break from our mammalian roots. (That’s not a thesis, just an idle thought.)
While too many times ethnic celebrations in schools break down into match-the-food-with-the-culture, they do provide a teachable moment when a child of the dominant culture mutters “But I’m American– we don’t have a food.”
And there may be some truth to that.
Mammals need to eat a lot of food, the price of our warm-blooded nature. Most of our furry cousins spend a good part of their waking hours getting and eating food. Much of their social interaction revolves around getting (and sharing) food.
Until very recently (past hundred years or so) much of American social interaction involved the multiple steps needed to eat. “We” cheated a little bit of the time by using enslaving other people, only considered 3/5 of the rest of “us” (and only considered human at all so the South could have a bigger voice in Congress), but still, much of any given day was dedicated to sowing, reaping, slaughtering, prepping, sifting, grinding, rolling, frying, kneading, baking, churning, chopping, hauling, and, well, eating.
Pretty much everything eaten was local and in season, and I’m betting also pretty good most of the year.
How do I know? I am blessed with local, fresh food several times a month. Even in February, I can rake clams from the bay, pluck Brussels sprouts from the garden, cook the clams with rosemary and parsley from the garden, then chase it down with honey wine from my daughter’s bee hive.
I teach children biology, or at least I pretend to. Hard to teach children about life in a culture that uses Round-Up like water, in a culture where few children have slaughtered anything but mosquitoes, and where too few children have eaten anything they planted themselves.
Child by child I try to change this, but not so they can survive in some post-Apocalyptic world.
No, I just want them to have a shot at pursuing happiness. Real happiness.