Category Archives: oysters

Oyster Bánh Mì

With the warm weather we bid adieu to oysters. For the next few months they’ll be on the spawn as the water approaches temperatures fit for reproduction. Hence the old adage about not eating oysters in months without an “R”: May, June, July, August.

Like most adages, there’s some truth at the heart of the matter, though in this age of carefully farmed shellfish, not a month goes by that you can’t eat a tasty oyster. When oysters put their energy and fat reserves into sexual reproduction, however, their flesh becomes thin, watery, or even milky as the the reproductive organs take center stage. The milkiness is particularly off-putting to someone looking to slurp a raw oyster.

While spawning oysters are not choice, they’re not poisonous either, and sometimes in late spring you can find habitat where oysters will still be suitable for the table even as their brethren in other nearby locales are beginning to spawn. Such habitat will be at the lowest tide levels where the oysters aren’t exposed to sun and tepid tide pools for lengths of time, and on beaches where colder water currents flush through the shellfish beds. Oysters in such areas have a shorter spawning window. Even so, I usually prefer to cook these oysters in the warm months.

Here’s a recipe for just such an oyster: a Vietnamese-style Bánh Mì sandwich. This hybrid of traditional southeast Asian and French cuisines dates to the French occupation of Indochina. In American cities with large Vietnamese populations, the Bánh Mì is known as a delicious—and cheap!—lunch option for those on the go. Various meats are arranged on a baguette along with fixings such as fresh cilantro, pickled carrot, cucumber, daikon radish, and so on, and usually glued together with a sauce of some kind, often mayo-based. Ideally the baguette is crusty with just enough of a soft interior to cradle the meat.

I’ve never seen an Oyster Bánh Mì at my usual Vietnamese haunts. This is one sandwich you’ll have to make yourself. Typically a Bánh Mì is scarfed down solo while hurrying to an appointment, but I’ve written the ingredients below to serve two at home.

2 individual baguettes
1 dozen oysters
1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp butter

sweet chili sauce, such as Mae Ploy

hot sauce

1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 small carrot, julienne
several lettuce leaves

1. To make sauce, mix together equal amounts of sweet chili sauce and mayonnaise. Add hot sauce to taste.

2. Dip oysters in egg, then dredge in mixture of panko and flour.

3. Fry oysters in butter over medium heat. Remove to paper towels.

4. Slice baguettes lengthwise. Slather with sauce. Arrange oysters and fixings.

Hangtown Fry

The old mining town of Placerville, California, was dubbed Hangtown back in the mid-1800s after a trio of outlaws met their end on the same day and in the same oak tree. Legend has it that not long after that a Forty-niner who finally hit paydirt took his diggings into a local saloon and demanded the most expensive meal in town. The cook picked his three dearest ingredients—fresh eggs carefully packed for the rough overland journey, oysters shipped up from San Francisco, and bacon from the East Coast—and fried them up together.

If our miner had been a hedge fund manager the cook might have even tossed a few glittering flakes into the pan, but as it is this plenty rich West Coast classic has satisfied most hungry prospectors for more than 150 years.

Lately I seem to have a surf ‘n’ turf fixation involving seafood and mushrooms. You can see my Kung Pao Geoduck with Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms and my X-Country Double Lobster Risotto that used Maine lobster and Washington State lobster mushrooms. This time around I combined oysters harvested the other day with my first morel mushrooms of the year.

We got the oysters last week during an outing with the drunken midgets. After showing a few friends of mine the ropes on the oyster bar—then watching them shoot raw oysters left and right—it was miraculous that I got home with any at all. Shucked oysters will keep for several days in the fridge, and though not fit for slurping raw they’re perfect in a Hangtown Fry.

4 eggs, beaten
3 oysters, shucked
3 morels, halved
2 slices slab bacon, cut into thirds
1 scallion, bulb sliced, green tops cut into thirds
1 small jalapeño, sliced
cracker crumbs
hot sauce

1. Set oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch cast-iron skillet, then fry bacon over medium heat with a little oil. Remove to plate.
2. Saute morels, jalapeño, and scallion bulb in bacon fat until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile dredge each oyster in flour, dip in egg, and roll in cracker crumbs. Add a knob of butter to skillet along with battered oysters. Brown on one side, flip, and add remaining scallion tops. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 1 minute before pouring in egg and returning bacon to pan.
4. Cook egg mixture for several minutes before finishing in oven like a frittata.
Note: For less fussy approach, simply fry all the non-egg ingredients together and then scramble. Or, alternately, for a more elegant dish, remove each of the ingredients from the skillet in turn when done sautéing, then add back as eggs begin to set, as shown in photos.

Serves 1 hungry prospector or 2 hedge fund managers.

Cooks & Clams

I feel like I’ve just been run through an intensive 10-week cooking class condensed into a single night. My head hurts—and not just because of all those Grand Cru wines brought home by the House Sommelier. The lesson here: Take a couple professional gourmet chefs clamming and you’ll reap the rewards. Not that it felt like work to get to the meal. I’ll take this troop clamming any day.

My foraging pupils were Becky Selengut, aka Chef Reinvented, who teaches cooking classes at PCC, cooks for hire, and is co-author of the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook. Her old colleague from the Herbfarm restuarant, Jet Smith, joined us. And completing the trio was Amy Pennington, the gogogreengardener herself, a former lieutenant to Tom Douglas, creator of Urban Garden Share, and no slouch in the kitchen.

Don’t let the fem pink gloves fool you… Most of the conversation simply can’t be re-printed, as I’m trying to run a family-friendly blog here. I’ve been known to let loose some colorful language myself, but these three make drunken sailors sound prim and more than once did I blush in the hot sun.

We started with the oyster beds, which were fully exposed by a low tide that virtually emptied this small bay in south Puget Sound. A few down the hatch and the rest into the bag.

Did I mention the extraordinary sun? After a libation and bit of sunbathing in the beautiful sun, we attacked the clam beds. With one other clammer in sight, we had the pick of the litter. I don’t think I’ve ever raked up a limit in such record time. The clams were practically jumping out of the sand volunteering for Becky’s Grand Plan. Both native littlenecks and non-native Manila clams filled our buckets. The Manilas have short siphons and can be found just an inch or two below gravelly sand, while the natives are just a little deeper, usually three or four inches beneath the surface. On this day we found mostly Manilas—big ones too.

A patch of sea beans (Salicornia sp.) provided the final treat. We munched on them through the day and took home enough for dinner.

Back at the ranch the cooks started working their magic. A few observations:

  • Pros work very quickly. I was still polishing off my second glass of rose champagne and the ladies already had three sauces ready to go.
  • Pros don’t get stressed out, certainly not when entertaining at home for such a small number of guests.
  • Pros make it look simple but their hamster-in-a-treadmill brains are forever concocting fiendish new designs to blow the minds of their hapless victims.

Though I’ll do my best to parse the recipes here, please understand that the chefs were working improvisationally throughout and I don’t think I saw a single measuring cup or spoon on the premises. What follows is an approximation, no doubt made murkier by the myriad wines and champagnes making the rounds. (The alcohol, I now realize, is the equivalent of a forager blindfolding his charges before entering a top secret hunting ground.)

Three Sauces

The first sauce was made by steaming a handful of clams in vermouth, shallot, parsley, and thyme. The clams were set aside for the first course and the broth strained into a blender along with some corn, blended, strained, and cooked down to a smooth sauce in a small pot, seasoned, and set aside.

The second sauce was composed simply of a small handful of parsley, blanched for 5 seconds and shocked with cold water, then blended with olive oil and salt into a cohesive oil which was strained and set aside.

The third sauce was made with a dried ancho pepper, reconstituted in warm water, seeded, and blended with tomato paste, olive oil, and salt.

First Course: Pan-Fried Pacific Oysters with Clams in Corn Sauce and Drizzled with Chili and Parsley Oils

That’s what I’m talking about. We’re not in Kansas anymore is right. The oysters were floured, dipped in egg, and dredged in homemade breadcrumbs, then pan-fried in a generous allowance of butter. These got plated in pyramid formations in shallow bowls ladled with the corn sauce, then topped with a garnish of thinly sliced olives and red onion bathed in red vinegar to turn a jaunty fuchsia. Steamed clams and drizzles of chili oil and parsley oil completed the sumptuous picture.

I mean, isn’t that what any of us would do with a few fresh oysters?

Second Course: Cambodian Shellfish Amok

I’ve actually made a dish similar to this, and the beauty is just how simple it is for us normal home cooks to make. My contribution on this night was to scrub the clams, which is kinda important since freshly foraged clams will have slimy stuff on their shells, while Amy scrubbed and de-bearded the mussels. Onions and kaffir lime leaves got sauteed in coconut oil in a big pot with amok powder and Thai bird chilies. Our pile of shellfish, about 140 clams and two-dozen mussels in all, was then dumped into the pot along with a can of coconut milk and steamed. The shellfish hotpot was finished with fresh lime and cilantro, and served with baguettes for dipping up the curry-like broth.

Third Course: Oyster and Sea Bean Succotash with Stir-fried Bok Choy

We finished off the meal with a southern twist, using the bok choy as a bridge from the previous course. Chopped bok choy and onions were stir-fried with diced bacon while the succotash was composed of corn, blanched sea beans, chopped oysters, steamed and chopped carrots, chopped shallots, blanched fava beans, and diced bacon, all of which got sauteed together in bacon grease and butter.

The succotash really got me. I’m rendered helpless in the presence of salty-sweet; a night at the ballpark can’t be fully consummated without a bag of kettle corn, and usually I’ll eat myself right into a barf bag, such is my weakness for salty-sweet. In this case, the sweetness of the corn and carrots married with the saltiness of the oysters and sea beans, while the crispy bacon and fava beans added textural complexity. It was a dish that, on the face of it, looked so easy, and yet its flavor was as good as anything I’ve ever eaten. I watched it happen right before my eyes and still can’t believe how good it was.

And I suppose that’s how I feel about the meal in general. Yeah, I was there to witness it but I couldn’t quite believe my senses. Our Wine Sommelier, April, who came home to this feast after a late night pre-opening party for the Grand Cru Wine Bar over in Bellevue, is one lucky lady.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

Oyster Stew

Lately I’ve been considering the oyster. We’re lucky in Washington: this is the only state between Mexico and Canada on the West Coast where you can harvest wild oysters on public land. Both Oregon and California are closed to oyster harvest, though I imagine you might be able to find u-pick shellfish farms in those states for a fee. With a shellfish license that costs a few bucks, a daily limit of 18 oysters in Washington starts to look pretty good when you consider market and raw bar prices.

Like M.F.K. Fisher, my favorite way to eat oysters is raw, which is to say alive, with a light mignonette dipping sauce. These are good times for those of us who indulge in such carnivorous habits, especially in the Northwest. Oyster farmers have developed a number of standout strains, from the deep-pocketed Kusshi to the marriage of East and West in the Totten Virginica. Here’s a good resource for North American oyster appellations, so you know what you’re ordering at the raw bar.

But mostly I like to pick among the wild oyster beds of Puget Sound, where the oysters are not nearly so civilized. Many of my beaches now carry notices warning harvesters that eating raw shellfish can be hazardous to your health—no doubt the usual CYA legalese that we’re so accustomed to in this litigious age.

Signage hasn’t stopped me yet, even though these are rough-and-tumble, barnacle-clad specimens, sometimes of monstrous proportions. You have to look carefully for the smaller ones—or you can go for quantity over quality and make stew.

1 cup celery, minced (about 3 ribs)
1 shallot, minced (3 tbsp)
1 large potato, chopped
4 tbsp butter
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 limit large oysters (or 2 12 oz jars)
salt and white pepper
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
hot sauce

In a heavy pot saute shallot in butter over medium heat. Add potatoes and celery, season, and saute for 15 minutes. Add 3 cups milk and cook just below simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend milk and vegetables. Add heavy cream, then oysters and their liquor. (I chopped up my big oysters into bite-size pieces.) Oysters are done when edges curl. Serve immediately with hot sauce and cold beer.

Ushering in a New Year of Wild Foods

New Year’s Eve is largely, in the view of FOTL, a letdown. If you brave the crowds downtown, you’re guaranteed a long, tedious night of bad food, overpriced bubbly, and boorish behavior. Here at FOTL, we prefer to indulge in boorish behavior in the privacy of our own home, with friends and accomplices who are forgiving of such boorish behavior. The food is a lot better too. (As is the late-night dance party…)

Once again my friend Tip and I donned the aprons to throw together huge vats of paella for our guests. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The dinner didn’t actually make an appearance until a quarter to midnight, the cooks being too busy quaffing cavas and wolfing down cheeses from The Spanish Table, including an etorki that was mindblowingly delicious. Over the course of several hours we enjoyed a feast of fresh oysters, calamari from recently foraged Pacific squid, bagna caôda compliments of our Piedmontese friends the Coras, and a full bar of booze and wine.

Though not wild in origin, the bagna caôda deserves special mention. Chris and Lori harvested winter vegetables from their garden and put together this fondue-like dish with an aromatic sauce of garlic, olive oil, anchovies, and butter, all of it heated in an attractive vessel over flaming Sterno. Really, there’s not much I can do to fully describe just how stinky and delicious this whorehouse specialty is. Sopping up bread with the sludge in the bottom—and I use the word sludge with utmost admiration—is one of the more prurient acts in the food world, always accompanied by an orgiastic chorus of oohs and ahhs. Cardoon is a traditional bagna caôda veggie; others include cauliflower, broccolini, beets, cabbage, fennel, and whatever else you want to stir into the hot bath. The taste is intense and lingers in the memory.

While I’m at it, I’ll hand out more props: to the Day-Reis gang for their marinated and barbecued lamb and the Hunter-Gales for their Big Salad. The Coras also brought over a few pounds of squid harvested out of Elliott Bay, a pound of which got sauteed up for a calamari appetizer. But the cornerstone of the feast—the menu item that set the gears into motion this New Year’s—was the paella.

Kitchen-Sink Paella for 10

We call it “Kitchen-Sink Paella” for obvious reasons. Each time we use a conflation of two or three or more recipes and end up using most of the ingredients from each, including but not restricted to: chicken, chorizo, squid, shrimp, mussels, clams, and oysters. Of those, only the chicken and sausage were store-bought this year, which is a new record. The other key ingredients are Spanish rice, saffron, and sweet pimentón (paprika). This time around we used the more expensive Bomba rice, which requires a higher 3 to 1 ratio of stock to rice—which in turn requires you, the cook, to properly estimate your size of cookware or risk a flood of paella.

Speaking of cookware, the traditional paella pan is large, steel, and fairly shallow, the broad shallowness allowing the rice to cook quickly without burning. According to, a 26-inch pan will serve 15. One of these years I’ll have to pick up the real thing, but in the meantime Tip and I have been getting by with unsanctioned cookware, including his well-named “everyday pan” and my large skillet. This year Tip forgot his pan, so we experimented with a Le Creuset French Oven, mainly because it was big enough.

In the past, if memory serves, we finished the paella in the oven; this time we decided to court tradition and not stir (this despite our choices of cookware; clearly multiple cavas were making mischief). The shallower skillet came through with flying colors but the deep French Oven took longer to cook and burned on parts of the bottom, though not in a calamitous way. The take-away here, to employ the verbiage of a former employer, is to use a broad, shallow pan. Memo to Santa…

Here’s what The Spanish Table has to say about cooking paella: “Traditionally, paella is not stirred during the second half of the cooking time. This produces a caramelized layer of rice on the bottom of the pan considered by many to be the best part. With a large pan, it is difficult to accomplish this on an American stove and you may prefer to stir the paella occasionally or move the pan around on the burner(s). Another alternative is to finish the paella by placing it in the oven for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. Paelleras can also be used on a barbecue, or an open fire (the most traditional heat source).”

4 cups Bomba rice
12 cups chicken stock
2 large onions, chopped, or 1/4 cup per person
50 threads of saffron (5 per person), crushed, toasted, and dissolved in 1/2 cup white wine
4 tbsp (or more) olive oil
10 (or more) pieces of chicken, on the bone (thighs and drumsticks), or 1 per person
10 soft chorizo sausages, sliced (about 2 lbs), or 1 per person
5 tsp sweet or semi-sweet pimenton (paprika), or 1/2 tsp per person
10 cloves, minced, or 1 per person
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 lbs squid, cleaned and cut up
1 lb shrimp, shelled, or 2 per person
2 lbs clams in the shell, or 4 per person
1 lb mussels, or 2 per person
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 hot peppers, diced
1 10 oz package of frozen peas
chopped parsley and lemon wedges for garnish

1. Warm stock.
2. Toast saffron gently in small saute pan until aromatic, then add wine. Bring to boil and set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in large paella pan (or two pans), then brown chicken on all sides. Next add onions and garlic and cook until translucent before adding chorizo, cooking a few minutes.
4. Add rice, stirring until fully coated. Add paprika and tomatoes. Stir in saffron-wine mixture and all the stock. Bring to a boil while scraping bottom, then add peppers. Adjust heat to maintain a slow boil. After 5 minutes or so, add frozen peas and seafood, stirring in peas, squid, shrimp, and clams; arrange mussles by inserting vertically halfway into top.
5. Cook another 15 minutes or until rice is done and clams and mussels have opened. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with good Spanish wines, lots of them.

Final Forage of ’08

I took advantage of a gap in the weather yesterday to shanghai Riley and his best friend Alec to our go-to shellfish beach. The snow had mostly melted and high winds and rain were yet to arrive. Even crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the two second-graders ignored the world outside, too wrapped up in trading their Pokemon cards to admire the dramatic view of Puget Sound’s glacial pinch. They haggled in the back seat like a couple of old geezers.

But once on the clam beds the twenty-first century’s kiddie distractions began to slip away: Pokemon characters and Nintendo gave way to the visceral pleasures of working a shovel into the sand and uncovering a nice littleneck clam. The boys found sand dollars, caught a sculpin, and engineered a network of canals and locks as the tide receded. They dug clams and found mussels. They got a laugh out of a thieving gull that pilfered my container of shucked oysters the moment I turned my back.

When we got home, Alec proudly presented his mom with a limit of clams. I’ve got plans for our own haul: full limits of clams, mussels, and oysters will be part of tonight’s feast, which will incorporate a few other wild delicacies from 2008. More on that next year.

Happy New Year everyone!

Gifts for Foragers

It’s that time of year. FOTL doesn’t endorse Black Friday, hellish trips to malls, or other forms of conspicuous consumption (shopping gives him hives, truth be told), but it is traditionally a time of giving, so we’ll be offering a few suggestions over the next few weeks for the forager on your list.

First up is the book Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobsen, an informative, witty, and fast-paced appraisal of the ostreaphagist landscape. Eating a raw oyster is about the most carnivorous act of feeding most of us westerners (as in hemisphere) will engage in during our lives. The oyster is still alive, after all, or it should be. But what pleasure and sensuality too! As the French poet Leon-Paul Fargue said, eating oysters is “like kissing the sea on the lips.” This is a good time to be an ostreaphile. After centuries of decline during which the planet’s original oyster beds were pillaged and polluted into near extinction, the oyster is making a comeback with new aquaculture techniques and a dedicated confederacy of shellfish farmers, improving water quality in the process. Jacobsen introduces us to the major species of oyster on the culinary stage, their commercial history, and the current state of oyster eating in the world.

Admittedly, Geography is more for the oyster eater than the forager, but for those of us lucky enough to live in places where wild oysters can still be gathered off the beach—primarily Florida, Louisiana, Washington, and B.C.—there’s knowledge to be gained about what it is we’re eating. For the rest of the oyster-slurping public, Geography is a primer—not unlike a wine guide—on the tastes and textures of the most famous—to extend the wine metaphor—oyster appellations around the world, and how to pair these inimitable bivalves with other foods and drinks.

As Jacobsen writes, “When you eat oysters, you wake up.” Anyone who enjoys oysters will devour this book and then make tracks for the nearest fish market, raw bar, or oyster beach, senses alert in anticipation.

Oyster Po’ Boys and Beer for Everyone!

My friends and fellow oyster lovers, as a finalist candidate in the Great Oyster Decider Election of ’08, I’m asking for your vote in the upcoming election, sponsored by, so I can win four dozen fresh Puget Sound oysters. I promise to fete my supporters with Oyster Po’ Boys and Beer ’til the cows come home. Just stop on by Oyster Headquarters in Seattle’s lovely Mt. Baker neighborhood. Now that’s a promise, y’hear!

Vote early…and often!

I'm a Finalist in the Marx Foods Oyster Contest

What would you do with 48 oysters?

To commemorate the onset of another oyster season, Marx Foods is offering four dozen of the sublime bivalves to the winner of its latest contest. All you need to do is leave a comment on their contest page saying what you’d do with 48 oysters. The winner will be voted by readers. The contest runs through October 19; polling will be from the 21st to 24th at noon, and a winner will be announced on October 27th.

Oh Canada!

I love Canada. At my old bookstore job I used to work regularly with Canadian publishers, who came down to Seattle each season to present their latest frontlist books. We’d go out to some nice restaurants on the publisher’s dime, and I can say unequivocally that those Canadians put me under the table each time. The next day they’d be chipper as ever at the day-long meeting while I felt like slapping a cold t-bone across my face. My Canadian friends mountain bike over teeter-totter logs suspended a dozen feet above the ground, surf the icy waters of Vancouver Island’s west coast, and ski like bandits on a getaway run.

I just wish I could get up there more often, if only to let some of that Canadian gnarliness rub off on me and my kids. Happily, in recent years a tradition has sprung up among four Seattle families who share a waterside cabin for the better part of a week each summer in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. There’s an outhouse and a well with a hand-pump. A variety of mismatched camp stoves function as the kitchen. Everyone agrees that to update a single feature would be sacrilege. In the U.S. it’s getting harder to find such rustic accommodations; not so in Canada.

The real magic of this setup is watching our nine American kids do without their accustomed gewgaws and explore the natural environment. Games of tag and sardines go on among the old-growth Douglas-firs. Hide-and-seek in head-high salal bushes is a real challenge. They build “fairy houses” on the property and keep eyes peeled for the legendary Island Trolls. But it’s the water that’s most tempting.

This year the older kids showed a surprising interest in catching their own food. They dug clams for hours, used a dropnet to gather bait, fished for bottomfish, and set a crab trap. They even ate oyster po’ boys. In a “Lord of the Flies” moment that might freak out some parents, one little girl—a few days shy of starting kindergarten—caught a kelp greenling from shore, using a clam she had dug up for bait. All the other kids clamored ’round, each one administering a blow to the head to do it in. We grilled the greenling that night and they all ate of it with gusto under the stars. Rockfish and flounder landed on the menu as well, as did three species of clam: mahogany, littleneck, and horse. The adults had to hide batches of steamed clams just to have a few to eat.

Bottoms Up!

I don’t own a boat and rarely have access to one, so one of the real treats is taking an ancient battle-scarred Whaler out to the bottomfish grounds, where it’s virtually impossible to get skunked. Every kid caught a fish, bouncing weights along the bottom and using clams for bait. Sometimes you get more than you bargain for; one of the flounders came up half-eaten and it’s not uncommon to haul in the occasional dogfish. Sadly, as in much of the Northwest, the salmon runs have been badly depleted and we don’t even make the effort of time and gas to look for the remaining few.

The Myth of the “R” Month

Spend any time harvesting oysters and you’re bound to hear the old saw about “R” months, that you should avoid oysters in any month without the letter “R”: May, June, July, August—the summer season, effectively.


Now it may be true that in earlier days without reliable refrigeration and fast transportation, the warm months were the most likely to see fish spoilage. Similarly, the warm months are when we usually get the algae blooms that can cause red tides, which were less closely monitored in the past. Neither of these issues should obtain now.

The only other factor is the oyster spawn. When the water is warm enough, oysters undergo a physiological change in preparation for spawning, with their organs largely given over to the task of reproduction, resulting in a milky, somewhat mushy meat (see above). It is during this stage that many oyster lovers spurn their cherished bivalve. But wait. The milky substance is not the result of any sort of toxin or sickness. Most of it can be washed away simply enough by running the oyster under tap water. While I don’t slurp down oysters raw at this time, I can think of no reason to not batter them in egg, flour, and cornmeal and fry them up for po’ boys. The half-pints didn’t seem to mind either.

Go Make Your Clam Bed

Probably more time was spent digging clams than any other activity. We used big shovels and small shovels, spades and scratchers. The kids dug trenches deep enough to hide in. Native littlenecks lay just a few inches beneath the surface, but butter clams (which we only used for bait) secreted themselves well below the littlnecks—and horse clams, also known as gapers, were deeper yet. Higher up the beach the kids discovered mahogany clams, a silky smooth clam with a lustrous brown shell that is delicious steamed and dipped in butter. The gapers got cut up for chowder.


Collecting bait is often more fun for kids than the actual hooking and catching of fish. Heck, I feel pretty much the same way about it sometimes—which is why filming these two kids going at it with the dropnet was such pure pleasure. It hurt my knees just to watch them squat down on their haunches so effortlessly for minutes at a time. I was reminded of more innocent summers in the distant past, of catching frogs and building bike jumps with my neighbor Sarah Sulger, the complications of adolescence and adulthood still years away. Watching this scene unfold, only a short bit captured here, might have been the highlight of my trip.

And then it was time to go home, to get back to work and prepare for the school year. While waiting for the first of two ferries to shuttle us back to the mainland, we found a monstrous patch of Himalayan blackberries and picked until the last car had debarked before running back to our vehicles for loading. I’ll post the result of that quick pick in a future post: blackberry crisp.

I hope everyone had a tremendous Labor Day Weekend!