Razor Clam diggers, also known as clam-heads, have reason to be hauling our gear out of the basement and doing a few preparatory leg exercises. Spring digging begins on Friday! Only on south beaches, however- north beaches are only open on Saturday and Sunday. I will be so ready- it’s been far too long since the plump Springtime clams landed on my dinner plate. Clam digging is one of the many reasons that I love living here in Grays Harbor. We have such an abundance of harvestable wild food available to us. My Uncle Alan used to say that we were a mecca for outlaws, in part because they could eat so well by living off the land. I’ll tell you more about Uncle Alan another time. It may require an entire book!
The Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival takes place on Saturday from 10 until 6 at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, with entertainment galore! Given just a bit more free time, I would be sorely tempted to enter my very own Clam Chowder recipe in the amateur Chowder cook-off. But I haven’t the time, so have decided to share my secret and fantastically delicious recipe with you!
Barbara’s Clam Chowder
saute the following in 1/4 cup of olive oil;
1 Large onion, chopped
1 Cup chopped celery
1 Cup grated carrots ( sometimes I add even more)
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. Dill
1/4 tsp. Thyme
2 Tblp. Dry parsley (fresh if you have it!)
1 Tblp. Dry mustard
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
meanwhile have cooking in a separate pot;
6 or 8 finely cubed potatoes, in water-enough to cover them, or better yet- chicken stock
6 slices of bacon
in a blender, combine;
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of Flour
When the potatoes are cooked, stir the flour/water mix into the pot and
stir quickly to thicken. Then add the sauteed vegies. Then add;
1 to 2 cups of ground clams, and finally,
1 or 2 cans of evaporated milk- your choice for thickness
Put the burner on very low and cook until the clams are cooked but not
ladle into bowls and add a dollop of butter on top of each bowl
Ever heard of Razor Clam Sausage?? Only if you are a regular at the Hoquiam Farmers Market, since our own Anthony Stricevich is the only one making this incredible delicacy! Anthony’s sausage has a national following. Many folks who live in far-flung states place regular orders for his Razor Clam Sausage, and new gourmands discover this regional delight daily. Don’t expect Anthony to be giving out his recipe, it’s so secret that I’m not sure that LuAnn is allowed in his shop during production. There are days when we run out at the market and have to break the news to disappointed customers. That’s when all of our diplomacy skills are tested. When Anthony temporarily ran out of clams a few months ago, fans of his sausage were muttering and grumbling. Thank goodness his other sausages are equally as delectable; Kielbasa, Harbor Hound, Craisin, Summer Sausage. We pressed the packages into the customers hands, and they came back completely contented.
Lytle’s Seafoods tries to keep both Anthony and the market supplied with fresh, cleaned razor Clams, but our supply always depends upon the tides and the weather. You can give us a call at 538-9747 to ask about our supply or to have us hold something for you. I’d rather have your name on a package of goodies than to have you be disappointed when we are sold out.
John Vlastalica is a Razor Clam fan who grew up in Aberdeen. He moved to Olympia, but never lost his love for either the clams or his hometown. One fine day he was struck with an inspiration ( it may have been a middle of the night thought, but-) Clam-heads are forever longing for the largest clams possible. We yearn for the old days of digging when the ‘mossbacks’ were plentiful. For you youngsters, a mossback is an enormous Razor Clam whose shell has become mottled and green with age. We shake our heads while recalling the time when a limit was much larger than a mere 15 clams. I have a family photo showing my father with our 4 limits in a wheelbarrow, practically overflowing with clams- all mossbacks! In fact, the first baby picture of me is not one of a newborn baby at the hospital, snuggled in mom’s arms. Huh-uh. I was born on March 2nd, and within 2 weeks they had me out on the beach for clam digging. Not that I was much use, but I love the photo of me in my fathers arms. His pantlegs are rolled up past the knee, he’s barefooted and plaidshirted, and the clams are almost, but not quite, the star of the picture.
Back to John’s inspiration. He decided to make a T shirt showing a plump mossback Razor Clam posed next to the much smaller clam. The caption reads
‘Size Does Matter, Can ya Dig it?’. This is a great T shirt. So, naturally we now have them available at the Farmers Market.
Clam digging has played a large role in my life. I’m told that my personality changes once I get to the surf line. My jaw tightens, the lips are compressed, a look of total absorption in the task at hand comes over my face. Stalking the wily clam is not a job for sissies. It is serious work.
Until the sky begins to turn to a golden glow. Then I stop and stare in wonder, knowing that this moment is sacred. A clam could leap out of the sand and flop at my feet, and I would not turn my eyes away from this miracle. Slowly the sun lowers itself gently into the ocean, like a bather testing the water. In that moment, the world is sublime and completely at peace. I take a deep breath of the briney ocean air and give thanks.
Barbara Bennett Parsons, clam digger extraordinaire! Also manager of the Grays Harbor Public Market, fondly known as the Hoquiam Farmers Market. Open Wednesday thru Sunday! Call 538-9747 for Deli orders or more info