The Clam: The Golden Age

December 17th, 2010 § 2 comments

For the HG family the golden age of the clam was the period 1963-1975. After an active day on the beach of Fire Island (swimming, body surfing, frisbee tossing, whacking a tennis ball in our own version of sand kadimah), HG, family and friends grabbed buckets and waded into Great South Bay. For those without a New York background: Fire Island is a splinter of a barrier beach off the south shore of Long Island. It is some 31 miles long and as narrow as 100 yards at some points. It fronts on the Atlantic Ocean  and Great South Bay.   It begins at the Jones Beach Inlet and ends at Moriches.  The HG dune house was in the community of Ocean Ridge, just across the Bay from the town of Patchogue.  Fire Island has been the subject of plays, novels and poetry. The colorful communities that stretch along its length range from the out front gay to the relentlessly boy-meets-girl heterosexual.  It’s a mad mixture of bohemians, families,potheads, exhibitionists,  churchgoers,  show business and fashion celebrities.Okay, enough geography and culture. Let’s get back to clams. Once in the Bay, the HG clam posse did vigorous toe wriggling. Dodging horseshoe crabs and thrusting into the swampy Bay bottom, their  toes were seeking the smooth outlines of clams poking out of the mud. During those years  the bay was unpolluted and the bivalves flourished.  The HG clam posse was skilled and 90 minutes of clamming would yield as many as 600 clams. Back at Chez HG a clam feast was prepared.  HG possessed a shucking implement that made the job simple.  Pals and neighbors descended. White wine was opened.  Beers were pulled out of the refrigerator. Martinis were mixed. Joy commenced. First course was clams casino. Open clams got  a mixture of garlic, parsley, olive oil, oregano, light dusting of bread crumbs. Sometimes there was a topping of bacon. Into the oven they went for a brief bake. They were consumed on the back deck, facing the blazing sunset. Then indoors for linguni with white clam sauce. This was Beautiful  Sharon’s specialty: A hundred clams were shucked and all the briny juice retained.  A substantial amount of chopped garlic. Big bunch of chopped flat leaf Italian parsley. White wine. Into the saucepans the ingredients  went. The proportions and timing were Beautiful Sharon’s secret. A Beautiful Sharon clam was always plump and juicy; never rubbery and overcooked. The sauce, filled with succulent clams, was poured over bowls of al dente linguini.  The hot chili pepper flakes were passed. Wowee!!!! Make that double Wowee!!!!  Great South Bay now has pollution problems. The dune house is gone  (replaced by an ocean front paradise  on Prince Edward Island).  Beautiful Sharon is still a deft hand with seafood linguini but with clams selling for $1.25 each her bivalve of choice is the Prince Edward Island mussel.

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