Clam chowder, as it should be


Soups of the world: New England clam chowder

Look at all those sweet little clam morsels I dug up when I dipped to the bottom. They were just a little chewy, never stringy or tough. Firm potatoes nicely cubed. Rich creamy broth but not too thick. With oysta crackas. I added pepper too, after I took a picture of my food.

John and I had lunch at Woodman’s in Essex, Massachusetts after a morning drive and a few walks in the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island.


Front entry, Woodman’s

The place is an institution. Awfully crowded in summer.

Over 85 years ago, Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman invented the fried clam. Ever since then the Woodman family has been serving up hearty portions of seafood and memories to generations of loyal customers.

“Chubby,” heh.


Happiness is finding a table at Woodman’s

That’s what a sign said. Not so much a problem at lunch on a Thursday in winter. But airline pilots and their spouses specialize in the off season, the work week, the odd day and time. Now he’s off to Miami tonight, then Honduras and the Dominican Republic tomorrow.

John had fried sea scallops that were sweet and tender. I particularly liked that they halved some of the larger ones before breading and frying, so they were just a perfect mouthful. The onion rings were light and crisp, almost delicate, and made with good sweet onions.

Everything is served in or on styrofoam. It’s basically an indoor, heated clam shack with nice solid wooden tables, separate windows for order and pickup (you must have your receipt with number), fabulous memorabilia on the walls, and a walk-up bar for beverages both alcoholic and non.


Photo on the wall: A New England Gidget and a nice college boy

There were maybe 12 of us dining in the cozy booths near order and pickup. John and I were the youngest people there, except for these two immortals enjoying a timeless clambake on a twilight beach.

The restroom doors said Buoys and Gulls.

Clam chowder is rude, rugged, a food of body and substance — like Irish stew, Scottish haggis, English steak and kidney pie — a worthy ration for the men and women of a pioneer race and for their offspring.

– Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book, 1949

But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt… we dispatched it with great expedition.

– Herman Melville, Ishmael in ‘Moby Dick,’ 1851

Chowder breathes reassurance. It steams consolation.

– Clementine Paddleford, Charles Wysocki’s Americana Cookbook

(Thanks to A Mouse in France for the idea of having clam chowder today.)

Local freeskier wins Big Air Hip in French Alps


In today’s Hampton Union…

North Hampton’s Tucker Perkins, center right, won the Big Air Hip competition in freeskiing in Tignes, France, on Jan. 7.

Tucker Perkins flies through the air
Local teenager excels in burgeoning sport of freeskiing

By Amy Kane

NORTH HAMPTON — He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young man on twin tip skis.

Tucker Perkins, 17, of North Hampton, placed first in a highly competitive freeskiing event in the French Alps on Jan. 7.

“I was pretty confident after my last jump,” Tucker said.

Tucker’s victory at the Big Hip Air competition at the annual Tignes Airwaves bodes well for his goal of competing next year in the ultimate event for freeskiers, the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.

Tignes Airwaves has been dubbed “the French X Games.” It is an invitation-only event featuring top European and North American competitors in skiing, snowboarding, motorcross and mountain biking.

“It was pretty cool,” Tucker said. “Tignes is a small village tucked between two huge mountains.”

Tucker’s win earned him 7,500 euros prize money. He also placed seventh in the half pipe ski competition on Jan. 9 at Tignes.

Freeskiing is a relatively new sport that is growing rapidly. It evolved from extreme skiing and backcountry skiing on ungroomed, often extremely steep mountains, to include skiing in specially constructed terrain parks with a variety of jumps, boxes and rails.

Twin tip skis allow skiers to ski backwards as well as forward.

“A cork 900, a backflip 900, two and a half rotations with a backflip, a double backflip,” said Tucker, describing a few of his moves.

Tucker has been skiing since he was 3. His family owns a condo at Attitash in Bartlett. He discovered freeskiing when he was about 7 years old.

“I liked moguls, then it evolved,” he said.

He and his family have taken up residence in Park City, Utah, for the past two winter seasons, where Tucker can train at the former Olympic Superpipe with his coach, former U.S. Ski Team Olympian Britt Swartley.

For Tucker, the typical day in Park City usually includes three hours of hiking the halfpipe followed by three hours of jumps and rails.

“I’ll hike all day and try a set number of tricks, and keep repeating till I get them,” he said.

Tucker attended North Hampton School then Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass. Now he is homeschooling year round.

Training is year-round discipline, too. In spring and summer, he practices tricks on a trampoline and spends time on the water ramps at Lake Placid, N.Y.

“You need to be very patient. It takes a lot of time to be fully competitive,” Tucker said. “You have to work hard and be very persistent.”

Last August, he broke his back in training, with fractures in the L5 vertebra, but he has recovered fully.

Tucker’s parents, Al and Donna Perkins, are known locally as the founders of the Fish House Foundation, a nonprofit organization awarding college scholarships to area students.

Tucker will compete in the U.S. Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain in Colorado, Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. In March, he’ll be in Switzerland.

He returns home to North Hampton at the end of May.

“I’m very lucky to be doing this,” Tucker said. “It’s all I want to do.”

NY Times: Out of Deep Freeze: Freeskiers Make Sport Cool Again

Gift of Warmth #7

In today’s Seacoast Sunday…

Gift of Warmth: Renée: One of 4,000 to seek fuel aid
By Amy Kane

Two jobs were barely enough. Down to one job, she needs help.

Renée, 59, applied for fuel assistance for the first time this year. She’s not the only one. According to Sharon Brody, fuel assistance director at Rockingham Community Action, an unusually large number of new applications are coming in this winter.

“People are applying who we have never had on the program before and who previously would never have applied,” she said.

Renée is one of approximately 4,000 people who have requested fuel assistance to heat their homes this winter. Seacoast Sunday and its publisher, Seacoast Media Group, are asking for donations that will be sent to the fuel assistance program at Rockingham Community Action for distribution to households in need on the Seacoast.

Renée worked as a home-care provider until recently when her patient went into a nursing home. She has also started her own business. But right now, Renée is having trouble with bills that are larger than ever before — like the cost of heating her mobile home in a Seacoast town.

“My business is going to take a little bit to get off the ground,” she said. “I’m just barely covering the bills. I’ve had to use my credit card.”

Renée lives alone and is accustomed to solving her own problems. She works hard to stay healthy and successfully treated several illnesses, including a rare and severe case of heavy metal poisoning.

“I may not have a lot of money, but I do take care of my health,” she said.

Renée is also caring for her mother, who lives nearby.

She is excited about her new business and has high hopes for its eventual success. In the meantime, Renée awaits word on her fuel assistance application and wonders how other people are managing.

“I don’t understand how people are doing it,” she said. “The economy is so soft right now. Even my mechanic, he usually has 20 tune-ups a week. This week he had none.”

Your donation to the Gift of Warmth will benefit Renée and other Seacoast residents who need help with heating costs this winter.

Make checks in any amount payable to “Gift of Warmth” and send to Seacoast Media Group at 111 New Hampshire Ave., Portsmouth, NH 03801.

(Last profile in the series will appear next Sunday.)

Swallowing clouds


Good cheap lunch here.

I had a hankering for the warmth, the delicate broth, the scallion, pork and ginger flavor of wonton soup (aka Chinese penicillin) so we went to Ocean Wok in Hampton Beach near the inlet yesterday.

The term wonton comes from the Chinese phrase “swallowing clouds.”

For about $7 you get soup, two crispy chicken wings, a heaping lunch entree with fried rice, and hot flower-scented tea in a silver pot. Play tea party with your lunch date.

My fortune cookie wasn’t really a fortune but something about how nice nature is. On the way out, a creamy mint scooped with a silver spoon from a silver dish.

Go home. Need nap.


Southern entrance to Hampton Beach.

I shot this through the windshield, from the front right seat.

Driving in the emptiness of the winter beach town, I was beginning to get sleepy from my lunch. They give you so much food. Then I imagine the slender waiters go into the kitchen and mock you in their language for eating so much. Just something I imagine as I begin to nod off and my head bumps against the car window.

I dream a lot in winter. Two nights ago I dreamed I was trying to free a duck whose webby duck feet had frozen into a pond. “Hot water,” I dream-thought to myself. “But not too hot to scald his feet.”


North end of North Beach, Hampton, looking north.

On the way home we got out of the car for some fresh air, for about 20 seconds.

It’s so cold. Everything is cold in January. And dirty. I can’t keep the lint, dog and cat hair off my black wool coat. The car has a layer of road dirt/dust on its lower half. The house is dirty again 20 minutes after I vacuum and dust.

Winter is getting dull, dreary, dirty, old, cold.

I am getting through winter with my annual hot water treatments. Tea, soup, baths.


A little gull with a bright eye.

He had no interest in flying away as I got closer with my big black and silver camera eye, in my dirty black coat. Maybe he feels the inertia too.

Backyard nature watch: five deer at the bird feeder yesterday; a flock of 100 marauding robins ate all the front yard winterberries and crabapples; owl pellet with bones discovered out by the garden.

I had an interview this morning. I have a few phone calls to make today, and two articles to write. I leave you with links. Like lint, I picked them up somewhere.

Man arrested for drunk mower driving

52 Weeks, 52 Jobs, 1 Blogger

Cat stowaway makes it home again

A majestic winter scene: eagles in search of prey

Flu Survival Kit: A Self-Care Kit for Your Home

Soup provides a bowlful of warmth for a winter day

In Praise of Melancholy

Man searches for happiest place on earth

Recipe: Wonton Soup

Ocean Wok Chinese Zodiac. I’m a water tiger.


The Water element gives the Tiger a soothing characteristic making this breed a bit more tranquil. Their ability to consider feelings and ideas from other people makes them quite sensible and understanding. They are also born with a great intuitive power, which gives them accurate and excellent judgement. The Tiger is a bit indecisive, a habit of nature born of his routine of watching and waiting before leaping. Sometimes too, Tigers get caught sleeping or daydreaming, prohibiting them from going for the goals they initially set out to accomplish.

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.

– W.H. Auden

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.

– Steven Wright

All fired up and ready to dish


Winnacunnet High School seniors Brynn Potter and Katie Marra, in the school’s ceramics studio, organized this year’s Empty Bowls fund-raiser, a soup lunch to raise money for local food pantries.

In today’s Hampton Union…

Volunteers to serve up soup at WHS Empty Bowls fund-raiser
By Amy Kane

HAMPTON — Hungry? It’s soup for lunch this Saturday, and it’s for a good cause.

Volunteers at the Empty Bowls fund-raiser will serve up a variety of soups and chili from area restaurants in handmade ceramic bowls at the Winnacunnet High School dining hall on Saturday. Proceeds will benefit local food pantries.

For a contribution of $15, the one-of-a-kind bowls are keepers. First come, first serve. High school art students crafted many of the bowls in a recent “bowl-a-thon” and local commercial potters donated others. Soup will also be available in disposable bowls for $5. Bread and dessert round out the meal, and a raffle adds to the fun.

Empty Bowls has been an annual winter event combining warm soup, one-of-a-kind pottery and good intentions for many years. This year Winnacunnet seniors Brynn Potter and Katie Marra assumed leadership of the fund-raiser as their senior seminar project.

Brynn is a four-year student of art at the high school with a special interest in ceramics. She hopes to study art therapy in college. Katie has excellent time management and organizational skills. She plans to major in business. The two were a natural team for Empty Bowls.

“We did a good job of not waiting until the last minute. We talked to a lot of people, and realized when we needed more help,” said Brynn.

“It’s a process,” said Katie. “We learned through experience. Our goal was to see what it takes to run a functioning non-profit event.”

Katie and Brynn are keeping good records so they can hand the event off to another pair of students next year.

The two hope to raise $4,000 this year, up from $3,500 last year. Based on a survey, they have added chili to the menu.

“More clam chowder, people wanted that too,” said Katie.

Area businesses contributing food and gift certificates include the Old Salt, the Galley Hatch, Fast Eddie’s, Shaw’s, Hannaford, Dunkin Donuts, Jumpin’ Jacks, Zestos, Bull Moose Music, TNT and Friday’s. Special pottery pieces will also be included in the raffle.

The students’ faculty advisor for their senior seminar project is Sarah Edgar, an art teacher at the high school specializing in ceramics.

Edgar said she expects a good turnout this year.

“It’s a tradition. It touches a lot of people,” she said. “It’s a feel-good event — low key, relaxed, with a lot of people from town socializing.”

Reservations are not necessary.

Go & Do

What: Empty Bowls fund-raiser to benefit local food pantries
Where: Winnacunnet High School dining hall
When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
Cost: For a $15 contribution, participants get a choice of soup from local restaurants served in one-of-a-kind, handmade bowls.

Create a play in 24 hours


In today’s Hampton Union…

WHS drama club performs 24-hour plays
By Amy Kane

HAMPTON — It was a dramatic 24 hours.

Student actors, directors, writers and techies brought costumes and props from home and met Friday night in the Winnacunnet High School auditorium. By Saturday at 7 p.m., they had written, cast, directed, staged, rehearsed and were ready to perform five short, original plays.

The 24 Hour Plays are an annual tradition for the WHS Drama Club.

“It’s an intense microcosm of the creative process,” club adviser Will Fraser told the audience in his introduction to the event.

The opening play was about a New Hampshire State Geography Bee that gets a little out of hand. In a play about a yard sale, a succession of kooky characters, including a cat-loving neighbor, has the teenage protagonist worried her boyfriend will think she’s not so ‘cool.’

A play about a battle between traditional and innovative greeting card companies had characters dressing up to personify fun new holidays like Sequin Day, Ketchup Day and Spunky Old Person Day.

Drama Club is open to any student who wants to participate. Unlike the fall play and spring musical, there are no auditions. Money they earn charging modest admission fees goes toward a spring trip to New York to see a Broadway play.

Many members of drama club participate all four years. The 24 Hour Plays give them the opportunity to try a variety of theatrical roles and jobs.

Craig Rubin is a senior who loves to act. This year, he signed on as a writer.

On Friday night, the writers sat in the audience taking notes as student actors stepped up on stage for a minute to introduce themselves and describe the size and difficulty of the role they were willing to play. Then the writers and directors divvied up the actors, props and costumes.

With this raw material the writers set about crafting five unique plays, overnight, in a slumber-party type atmosphere at the home of drama mom, Paula Munch.

“I was scared going into it,” said Craig. “I had never written a play before. But as I was typing, I got into a natural creative flow.”

His play, “The Real Historical World,” was the “true story” of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Napoleon, Gloria Steinem, Abe Lincoln and “Sacagawea Jackson”(a character based on the real Sacagawea), who try to learn to live together while being filmed for a reality TV show.

Craig, who will play the male lead in the upcoming spring musical “Bye Bye, Birdie,” said being a writer gave him a new perspective on acting.

“I will not take for granted the hard work that goes into writing a play,” he said.

Cassie Heinrich, decked out in a feathered headdress and beads, played up her role of Sacagawea Jackson. All-day rehearsal was intense, she said. The actors had arrived back at the auditorium at 7 a.m. Saturday morning to learn what roles they would play.

“We had to learn our lines. At first it was fun, then in the last three hours we were getting stressed and yelling at each other. Then it all came together and worked out amazingly,” said Cassie.

Sajin Murphy directed a funny play about writing the 24 Hour Plays, written by Elise Fachon, in which the characters attempt to hijack the writing process and the writer succumbs to narcolepsy.

Sajin’s job as director was to “block” the stage, telling actors where to stand and move, instruct backstage tech, and help actors with how and when to deliver their lines.

“It was bad waking up early, but once we got started, it was fun,” said Sajin.


Winnacunnet High School’s spring musical “Bye Bye, Birdie,” will debut Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22, at the WHS auditorium.

The Drama Club Cabaret will be at The Old Salt on April 19 and the 10-Minute Plays will be at the Winnacunnet Community Auditorium on May 9 and 10.

. . .

Note for blog buddies: my daughter Laura played a know-it-all contestant in the Geography Bee skit. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?