Okay… I have to come clean. I thought I could handle it. I thought I would be able to approach any and all food topics with grace and dignity. Eating insects? Not gonna bother me. Knowing how meat gets to our table? I can stomach that. But I have to admit to a failing.
Clams freak me out.
Not eating them….Not that at all. Give me fried clams with malt vinegar and I am one happy puppy (Puppy?Hmmmm…note to self. Try clams with side of hush puppies).
No, no. What freaks me out are the clams themselves, not to mention the people who dig them up…for fun.
I’ll talk about the clams in a bit.. First the people involved. Notice this web page. And then note the following quote:
“Razor clams are fun to dig.”
What a crock. That has to be the broadest interpretation of the word ‘fun’ that I have ever come across. Let’s think of tasks that are far more fun than sitting on a cold damp beach digging out soe freak of nature bivalve.
Riding a roller coaster? That’s fun!
Riding in a souped up Mustang GT on an open interstate with a blatant disregard for authority? FUN!
Hell, when compared to clam digging, watching the numbers change on a digital clock is fun. These clam-digging people need to get out more. I fear getting into a long invovled conversation with any of them.
And then there are the clams themselves, what with their icky clam foot sticking out of their shell like a tongue of a lecherous mutant. Ugh.
And it’s not like there’s only one species of clam.. oh no. There are HUNDREDS of of versions the viscous shell slugs. Go to any fish house and you can find some of the more popular ones listed below:
Butter clams: From here in the Puget Sound area, these are small, sweet clams usually eaten raw. Also known as moneyshells, as the Native American Indians used the shells for money.
Cherrystone: Up to 3 inches in size, are named for Cherrystone Creek, Virginia. Recommended for eating raw and cooking. This is usually what you get when ordering clams on the half-shell.
Geoduck: Related to the giant clam, this odd-looking variety grows up to eight inches in length and can weigh in at over five pounds, although most are harvested at under three pounds. The neck of this clam is usually parboiled and skinned, with the skins being reserved and ground for chowder. The stomach (dark portion) of the body is removed and the rest carved into 1/4-inch steaks, which are considered by many to be superior to abalone. Because of their size, they have a tough texture and are usually not eaten raw. More on the Geoduck later.
Littleneck: Small quahogs less than 2-3/4 inches are so named for Littleneck Bay on Long Island, New York. These clams are generally recommended for eating raw and in chowders.
Longneck: It’s found in colder waters of the northern seas from the Arctic Ocean to Cape Hatteras and Pacific waters north of San Francisco. They are usually less expensive than other types and easiest to dig for. Recommendations for this particular type of clam are steaming, frying, and chowder.
Manila: Imported from the Orient after 1900, this variety of littleneck is now a dominant species in the Northwest. Recommended to be eaten cooked.
Pismo: Named for the coastline city of Pismo Beach, California, where they were first found. It is large, tender, and sweet. The connector muscle can be served raw, while the remainder is normally cooked after removal of the stomach (dark portion). If you like deep-fried clams these are particularly good.
Quahog (also Quahaug): This is an East coast favorite, it is also known as the round clam. Generally recommended for eating raw and in chowders, depending on the size. Smaller clams are best for eating raw. Quahogs also include Littlenecks and Cherrystones, which are simply smaller in size.
Razor: Because of its sharp shell and its resemblance to a straight-edge razor, this East coast variety of this clam is not as easy to catch as its West coast counterpart, making it not as popular. However, the unrelated Pacific razor clam is quite popular on the West Coast and is considered to have superior flavor. Recommended for frying and soups.
In the Seattle area, you can find clams with ease. Manila, Butter, Razor and even the dreaded Geoduck are all readily available in season.
Yeah.. about the geoduck? I have nightmares about them.
The geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”.. just another reason to hate the mutanteous shellfish…gooey?? Who the hell wants meat thats gooey???) is a clam that best resembles the sandworms from Dune. They are so very large. Picture your in your mind a regular clam, with it’s 1 oz of meat buried within its shell. Now picture the size of the clam that can produce FIVE FREAKIN POUNDS of meat!!! Having problems with that? Well lookey here.
You will note that the clam looks not unlike a penis. Add to this fact that when I see a clam this large, all I think about are those horror movies from the 50′s, where the mutated animals grow 10 times their size and attack helpless cities. You have not quite lived into you’ve had dreams of 50 foot penis shaped clams attacking downtown Seattle….very slowly (’cause they only have one appendage y’know).
And history tells us that the Neanderthals first excursion into meat eating started with shellfish. My faith in mankind dwindles just a bit knowing that between a choice of bison, rat or shellfish, our ancestors decided to gnosh on the penis looking objects found deep in the sandy beaches. This probably explains our innate laziness (easier to catch a clam than it is a gazelle) and our propensity for building large phallic monuments.
Then, and only then, can I get over my fear of these freaks of nature.