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.
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.)