From a February, 1952 edition of the Gazette:
It is at this time of year when, traditionally, the earth is about as cheerless as to aspect as it ever is in New England, that the thoughts of the coastal folk turn to clams. Not the quahaug of other sections, but the mud-clam, the squirting clam, the soft-shelled clam of commerce. No other bivalve is worthy of the name in the opinion of local people, and no doubt they are entirely correct.
Just why they should think of clams during this dreary season is anyone’s guess. Possibly some inherent instinct that has come down through the generations from the Pilgrim Fathers influences their thoughts and desires. The Pilgrims are supposed to have been saved from starvation through the eating of clams.
The coastal folk of pure lineage hie themselves to the shores, obtain clams and eat them in various ways, and with every appearance of keen enjoyment. ‘Tis odd indeed, but then just about everything pertaining to the clam is odd.
In the case of almost any variety of seafood, it is sought in deep water. But the clam is most easily obtained when there is no water at all. The seeker looks for the holes which, like X, mark the spot where a clam is concealed, or perhaps it is a many-legged worm or a razor-shaped thing. But frequently it is a clam, sometimes accompanied by brethren to the number of a dozen.
Again, a curious thing; in securing other seafood every effort is made to keep it clean or make it clean after taking. In the case of the clam, nothing is further from the notions of the prospective dinner! It has been proved conclusively that a bucket of soft clams, fresh from the tidal flats, contains sufficient sand to combine with cement and pave two square feet of sidewalk three inches thick. And this sand is swallowed by the clam-eaters!
Oh, it is perfectly true that they go through all the process of separating the clams from the sand or the sand from the clams. They wash them in fresh water, in salt water, they sprinkle them with corn-meal, with other things. They open them, split the necks and wash them, and they boil them and strain the water.
Such measures do indeed have the effect of removing sand from the clams by the handfuls, but in spite of all this, the clams being a stubborn sort of creature, they will retain great quantities of waterfront estate.
Because this knowledge is well known, the dyed-in-the-wool clam eater rinses off his catch where he takes it, and bothers no more about it. In other words, he knows that there are three pounds of sand to the bucket of clams and he eats it, along with his favored bivalve.
Special equipment is required in securing just about anything in the way of seafood, except clams. Nets, hooks, spears and so on are necessary in taking other things, but the clam can be taken with anything from a garden hoe to a battered tin cup.
Oddities in every way, clams grow like potatoes, except that there is no vine. Another odd thing about the clam is its ability to escape its captor. Laid on the dry ground the clam is about the most helpless-appearing creature imaginable. It can and does protrude its neck and whatever head it possesses. On being alarmed, it will withdraw the same, but seems incapable of other movement.
But should there be half an inch of water over the sand from which the clam is dug, it is well not to drop the bivalve after it has been taken. It will seldom be found. Just where it goes or how is a mystery, but its disappearance is immediate.
Animals do not care for clams, thus proving that they possess more sense than humankind. A cat that will tackle a blue crab and risk the loss of all its toes, will turn up its nose at a clam in the shell. Dogs, known to go into a frenzy over a mummified fish that has drifted ashore long, long ago, will not even look at a clam. Mice, rats and other vermin will seize upon a clam and drag it for yards, but it is not apparent that they do this with a view to eating the clam; rather it is supposed that they are troubled by its proximity, and are seized with a clean-up phobia or something of the kind.
But people think of clams. They dream of them. They brave the elements, cold, storm and sea, in order to obtain them, for it is well known that the best time to go for clams is when even the sea-gulls take cover.
They eat them, steamed, in chowder, scalloped, fried, baked and in stew, after which they circulate widely among their acquaintances and brag about it. The most dignified, the wealthiest, the lordly professional man, will hail an acquaintance on the street and gloat over the dinner of clams he has just eaten, even while the sand contained in the bivalves is clashing discordantly, and with stunning shock, in his digestive tract!
No one can deny these facts; no one can explain them. We admit all this ourself, for we are tarred with the same brush. We have just encompassed three-quarters of a clam pie!
We have never before tasted anything like it!
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner