I’m so excited! Today I’m heading off to the New England Crime Bake for Mystery Writers and Readers. The keynote speakers will be veteran mystery writers Barry Eisler and Nancy Pickard. There are a lot of great workshops throughout the weekend, and a Sleuths, Spies, and Private Eyes Banquet and Costume Party (if I get up the nerve I’ll go dressed as my favorite sleuth, the intrepid Nancy Drew...but I’m not the kind of person who likes to draw attention to myself.)
I know what you all are thinking…Hmmm, that makes me think of a
New England Clam Bake, and I think I’ll throw one of those this weekend!
What a great idea! Let’s do it!
Wait, I see a hand in the back of the room. Yes, you with the Coldwater Creek beaded bouclé jacket. You’re question?
“Can you clarify what exactly is a
New England Clam Bake is, please?”
Certainly. In short, a New England Clam Bake is a traditional method of steaming foods (mostly from the sea) in a pit dug in the sand. This cooking method harkens back thousands of years to the time when the Narragansett and Niantic Indians roamed the northeast Atlantic coast. Once the Europeans arrived, they quickly adopted this way of cooking a feast. And it is a feast in every sense of the word as it is designed to feed many people. I think that’s because it is too much work to prepare an everyday dinner for four this way.
No more questions? Okay, let’s make a list of the things we’ll need.
A sandy beach (one that allows open fires)
A shovel to dig a really big hole (a Clam Bake for 20 people will require a hole about 4 feet in diameter and one foot deep. Remember, digging sand can be a Sisyphean task http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Sisyphean, so a hole this size will take some serious digging skills)
Small rocks, enough to fill the hole (or I’ve heard cannonballs work well, too, but I don’t happen to have many cannonballs lying around, and I hope you don’t either.)
Seaweed, fresh from the ocean and washed five times and kept wet
A big tarp to cover the big hole, soaked
A bucket of seawater
Ø Longnecks (no, not bottles of ice-cold beer, but soft-shelled clams, also known as steamers) (but you might need some of the ice-cold longnecks to drink while you’re laboring over the prep work)
Ø Quahogs (pronounced Ko-Hogs, aka hard-shelled clams)
Ø Mussels (yet another type of clam)
Ø A non-seafood meat, such as sausage, frankfurters or chicken
Ø Corn on the cob, husks reserved
Ø Potatoes (white or sweet)
Ø A couple of pounds of butter for dipping
Beverages, preferably a hearty ale
Watermelon, for dessert
A lot of friends (but it’s not hard to find friends when you mention you’re hosting a Clam Bake)
Okay, true confession time. While I’ve enjoyed the food at many a clam bake, I’ve never actually done the work. It a rather daunting task, don’t you agree? Let’s hire a professional and we’ll just show up and eat, drink and be merry. Excuse me while I make a quick phone call….
I’m back. Never mind on the professional Clam Bake angle…it’s a bit out of our price range. Make that a LOT out of our price range. Besides, we’re do-it-yourself kind of people, aren’t we? So where were we? Oh yeah, time to get to work. I hope you’ve blocked out a huge chunk of time because it’s going to take us a good six hours to make this happen. But it's worth it. This is what our dinner will look like.
Hungry yet? met too! Let's get to work! Here’s what we need to do:
Buy all the food and schlep it to the scene of our Clam Bake
Dig a hole
Line it with the rocks or cannonballs
Build a fire to heat the rocks
Once it’s burned down (a couple of hours later), spread the ashes in between the rocks
Layer wet seaweed on the hot rocks (this is the source of the steam)
Layer the food to be cooked
Cover with a tarp
Sit back and wait for everything to steam to perfection (about one hour)
I heard someone in the back say, “I don’t have a beach handy. Is there a way to cheat here?” Of course there is, but it’s gonna cost us a WHOLE LOTTA CLAMS! Check this out:
This freestanding, all in one New England Clam Baker is perfect for those of you who want an authentic Clam Bake but don’t live near the shore. The good news is that it also doubles as a wok and pizza oven so you can use it for many other social events. Cost? (you might want to sit down for this part…) only $2,850, and you still have to buy lobsters for 20 or more. <<MORE INFO HERE>> That sets a blog record as the most expensive beach bling yet!
I think we can start our own business and travel around the country hosting New England Clam Bakes. And I know what we can call our new catering company—Life’s a Beach!