CapeCodHistory.us home page
Joseph C. Lincoln bibliography
Clams and Quahogs
Yankee Doodle in a Kettle
by Joseph C. Lincoln
The very words "New England Cooking" set an old New Englander's memory flying backward. It lingers in the old home kitchen, with its smells and its surreptitious tastes. It pauses by the cooky jar beneath the buttery—not pantry, if you please—shelf. Sugar cookies, molasses cookies, raisin cookies, ginger snaps, jumbles. It flits along to blueberry muffins, new rye muffins, blueberry pancakes, blueberry dumplings with thick yellow cream— skimmed, not separated cream. (If you were a Cape Codder that cream was skimmed with a sea clam shell, white and polished like porcelain.)
Dumplings? Oh yes, dumplings. Why, a whole chapter could be given over to dumplings. A dumpling, you understand, is not necessarily a lump of soggy dough, shaped like a glass paperweight and almost as heavy, tasteless as a rubber bath sponge. A dumpling, a genuine old-fashioned New England "riz" dumpling, is light and fluffy and flavorsome, something to eat and enjoy. A New England chicken stew with dumplings is—Well, well! A sermon might be preached on dumplings, but "Dumpling" is not my text just now.
Nor is Pie. New England, as everyone knows, is supposed to be the Pie Belt and when a Down-Easter thinks of. pie he sets the buckle forward a notch. Apple pie, mince pie, pumpkin pie—the latter not spiced and sugared to death, of course—squash, currant, cranberry—I just mustn't get going on cranberry pie made as it can be—Washington pie, cream pie. Then, to put the horse behind the cart, chicken pie, clam pie—
Eh? Why, yes! I know I should edge around to my real text pretty soon. It was clam pie that reminded me. In the short time allotted me, as the after-dinner speakers say, I shall confine my remarks—most of them—to the clam, the clam as expressed and glorified in a New England clam chowder.
I think it was the recollection of blissful experiences and bitter disappointments which led me to choose clam chowder as my principal topic. The bliss comes from many, many happy memories of beach and boat picnics and chowder feasts indoors and out. The bitterness from sad disillusionments when I have ordered and tasted clam chowder in roadside eating-houses, city restaurants and fashionable and high-priced hotels.
A New England clam chowder, made as it should be, is a dish to preach about, to chant praises and sing hymns and burn incense before. To fight for. The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought for— or on—clam chowder, part of it, at least; I am sure it was. It is as American as the Stars and Stripes, as patriotic as the national anthem. It is "Yankee Doodle" in a kettle.
When made as it should be. Ah! don't forget that stipulation, for when made as it shouldn't be it is an abomination. And, alack and alas, how often it is so made.
A genuine A No. 1 New England clam chowder is not a puree, thickened with flour and loaded with diced potatoes and bits of onion and chopped parsley, with, here and there, tiny fragments of clam as a feeble excuse for its name. It is not a thin, milk and watery broth, with bits of salt pork and onion skin on the surface and two or three tough clams, black necks still attached, lying on the bottom like drowned castaways. It is not—
You see, there are so many things it is not; and yet, over and over again, in restaurants, in roadside eating-houses, even as an item in a so-called "shore dinner," profanations like those just described arc placed before the innocent customer. In metropolitan hotels the New England clam chowder is often a sad mistake. Something should be done about it, of course. "There ought to be a law."
A "Manhattan" chowder or a "Rhode Island" chowder is a different dish altogether. It is made of hard clams, "quahogs," has tomatoes in it instead of milk, and is often good, or quite as often bad, depending upon its ingredients and its cook. But I am not discussing a quahog chowder now. What I am talking about is—
Which reminds me that I have talked too much already, but I meant to add some priceless advice about selecting the clams for a real chowder. They should be dug the same day or, at the earliest, the previous day. They should be clean-shelled, tender, sweet and young. The potatoes should be sliced, not diced. There is a hint of salt pork, of course, a hint, not a hunk. The crackers should be the round "Boston" crackers—they called them "common crackers" when I was a boy. Split them, you understand, and put a few in the chowder and add a few dry halves to float on top just before serving. The hard parts of the clams should be chopped and the soft parts—
Here is where I stop. I meant to say more, but, with difficulty, I refrain. The tried and true recipes for good New England cooking you will find in the pages of this book. Follow its instructions carefully, cook, taste, eat, and be thankful.
The same applies to the other recipes. Good New England cooking is good cooking. It needs no French or Greek or Italian additions. My fellow Yankees know this and here is the opportunity for the rest of the world to acquire knowledge. If I werewealthy beyond the dreams of avarice or the Rajah of Whatever I should buy this book in thousand lots and leave a copy at each roadside stand advertising "New England Home Cooking."
Thus, provided the proprietors of those stands read and profited and reformed, I should pose for my statue in the Hall of Fame.
THE NEW ENGLAND YANKEE COOK BOOK. An Anthology of INCOMPARABLE RECIPES FROM THE SIX NEW ENGLAND STATES and a Little Something about the People whose Tradition for Good Eating is herein permanently recorded. from the Files of Yankee magazine and from Time-worn Recipe Books and many Gracious Contributors
by Imogen Wolcott
Decorations by Edwin Earle and Alanson B. Hewes Published by COWARD-McCANN, Inc., New York
Copyright, 1939, by Coward-McCann, Inc.
Reprinted By Cookbook Collectors Library
Favorite Recipes Press, Inc.
P. O. Box 18324
Louisville, Kentucky 40218