Clams in the Muck

During a recent book discussion that focused on regional cuisine, I couldn’t help but drift back to my memories of spending summers on Onset Island off the coast of Cape Cod.

My grandfather had built this little cottage by hand. When it was destroyed by a hurricane, he rebuilt it with the help of his son Jim. It was probably the closest those two ever got.

My family would drive out from Wisconsin to Onset Island every summer for our family vacations when I was young. Although it was a very long drive, my brothers and I were always so excited to get there that the long drive didn’t seem to be a problem.

One of my fondest memories of this island was waking up at the break of dawn to go clamming with my grandmother. We would take two plastic pails and a pitchfork and a shovel. We could only do this when it was low tide, as that is what exposed the sand bars.

We walked out onto the sand bars that were made of an extremely black and rich material. We would walk until we would see some bubbles coming up out of the muck. Then we took out the pitchforks and turned up the sandbar to dig out these huge clams. We called them cohogs. Not sure if that is a real name for them or not. Although I am not fond of eating animals these days, when I was a child my favorite food was stuffed clams. We would cook them that day and have them at night. We would also catch crabs right off the dock and catch flounder when we would go fishing. Whenever anyone talks about eating seafood now, I always think back to how fresh and wonderful the food we caught at the cottage was.

For years after we no longer went to the cottage, my mother would still make me stuffed clams for my birthday – served in the same clam shells that we had saved from the early 1970’s when we caught them.

I’m not sure I could kill a flounder, crab or clam today, but my memories of going out with my grandmother are so rich in my memory that I think I could probably feel her with me as I would walk out onto one of those sandbars. I probably could make myself some stuffed clams….

Marc Boucher

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