Gardening

The Annual Clambake/Cookout thing, and other stuff

My left ankle hurts this morning. It was hard to walk when I got up an hour ago with Julia. The ankle thing used to happen sometimes either when I was going to culinary school on the weekends or before that when I had jobs that required being on my feet for a really long time. Now it’s just because (staying true to the name of this blog) I rarely wear shoes when I’m home and yesterday I was on my barefootkitchenwitch feet for a very long time. Day before, too.

We had our third annual clambake/cookout yesterday. Smaller than the past two, but mostly because we slacked off in getting in touch with people. I blame Julia. Or, rather, I use the birth of Julia as my convenient excuse for being sluggish about organizing things this year. Part of me was just feeling “I don’t wanna!” But we did it anyway.

Bill and John dug about 20+ lbs of steamers on Friday. Ordinarily that trip would have included some fishing and would have resulted in bluefish that we would have fileted and tossed in the smoker…but we don’t have the boat any more. We were planning to get something bigger, something newer, something safer (i.e. no secret bad fiberglassing repairs done by previous owners that result in surprise cracks or holes in the hull…) this year, but didn’t, for various reasons. We’ll do that next spring. Instead, Bill traded the boat trailer (trailer, mind you, not the boat) to a coworker for a case of beer. The woman he teaches with and her husband needed a new trailer for their boat, or something like that, and Bill said they could have this one (which is in better shape than the boat) – as long as they took the boat along with it. They did.

So anyway, with no boat, Bill and John used Bill’s canoe to paddle across the mouth of the Green River, up here in Narragansett Bay (RI), to get to where they dig for steamers. Paddle across, dig and dig and dig and dig in the sand and mud and gravel and wave off horse flies and sand fleas and eventually stop talking because it can be tedious work after a while, then – after all the excitement (ooh! steamers!) wears off, paddle all the way back, with sore arms and shoulders because they don’t do this every week.

But they seemed okay the next day.

Anyway, so we served steamers, which is the main “clambake” element of this shindig. We don’t dig a pit in the yard; we cook up the clams in a brewpot on top of a big propane flame.

In addition, there were other foods that have become part of this young tradition we’ve established…

…My brother-in-law, Jacques, deep-fried a turkey. This year’s was the best so far – perfectly moist inside and crackley crisp on the outside.

…I made chowder. The past two years my father provided the chowder, but my mother recently broke her hip and so they didn’t make it (the clambake or the chowder) this year. Mom can move around better and better, but there would be a lot of uneven lawn terrain for her to navigate, plus the stairs into and out of our house if she needed to use the bathroom…so I made the chowder – a curried mussel chowder that Dad has made before, and it’s from a book by Jasper White called 50 Chowders. Yum.

…The other traditional parts were the beers and rootbeer on tap – all made by Bill. Pathetically enough, I don’t remember specifically what the beers were. Not, at least, with great beery descriptive terminology. One’s an ale, one’s a lager. Both very good and perfect on a sunny, hot (but thankfully not humid) summer afternoon. The rootbeer’s good, too. By the end of the day the rootbeer was gone and so was the ale (which had a slight apricot flavor, not too fruity, very pleasant stuff).

…Instead of smoked bluefish, we bought a big salmon filet and smoked that instead. I had some of the leftovers last night around ten o’clock. We serve our smoked salmon with Ritz crackers and sour cream – sounds weird, perhaps, but it’s a great combination. I also made an herbed sour cream too. Our gardens are doing great this year and just about everything I cook lately involves a trip out there to collect something. Can’t wait til the tomatoes and eggplant are ripe…though it’ll mean the summer (and my maternity leave) is ending.

…I made sangria again – with the last two bottles of watery merlot that Bill made last year from a kit (the recipe for the wine resulted in the wateryness, not anything Bill did wrong), and peaches, apples, and oranges…very pretty. Most of that’s gone – there’s probably enough left for me to have a glass of it later on today with my lunch.

…New foods (I may have leftovers for breakfast) included clamcakes this year. Makes sense, with the chowder. Don’t know why we didn’t think of doing it before. I also made a potato salad of sliced, roasted Yukon gold potatoes combined with sliced (cooked) Italian sausage, cannelloni beans, sauteed zucchini (from the garden) and onion, and fresh herbs, and olive oil. People seemed to like that. I also threw together a pesto made up of just about every herb we’re growing, plus nasturtium leaves, mustard greens, and a peppery asian lettuce called “mabuna” (I think that’s spelled wrong though), plus garlic, olive oil, a little salt, a little black pepper, grated parmesan, and I used almonds instead of pine nuts or walnuts. Served that spread on thin slices of toasted baguette…

…Other people brought things too, and while the majority of guest arrived early in the afternoon, enough others came at various points throughout the afternoon so there was always something new to eat on the table. Had a couple of cakes – which all the kids ate in one collective gulp, it seemed. They swooped in like the seagulls in “Finding Nemo” (MINE MINE MINE MINE!) and left little more than a crumb or a smudge of frosting when they were finished….Other people brought fruit…Emily brought the fixings for strawberry shortcake, which was my personal favorite. We had bought a watermelon and completely forgot about it.

…We had bought cans of ginger ale and individual juice boxes for anyone that didn’t want the other stuff we offered…Alex has just learned to use a straw, and loves juice boxes. He takes a few gulps via the straw, then pulls the straw out and gets somone else to put it back in for him and then after another gulp or two decides the juice is all gone. This is because he insists on gripping the straw with his teeth and pulling up on it as he drinks. So when half the box is empty it seems like there’s no more. And no one can convince him otherwise. For a while he would bring someone a juice box, get them to put the straw in, drink half, put the box down or tell one of us “all done” and hand it off, then go back to the juice boxes floating in ice water, get another one, bring it back to the same group of adults with the order “do dat one” and – because he is cute and for really no other reason – one of us would put the straw in the little hole and let him get away with more horrendous waste of 10% real juice and plenty of artificial flavoring and coloring. Over and over. People started using sleight of hand to replace the new juice boxes with ones he’d already had us open. He didn’t fall for it. He just went back and got another box. Or he started approaching different people.

…He’s got a little plush elephant that I bought for him when we went to the zoo recently. He loves it, and it was his guest at yesterday’s party. He likes to drop the elephant (“EPH-ant”) into water. Puddles, usually, but yesterday, for a while, he dropped the poor little elephant into the ice water where the soda and juice boxes were. Over and over. He’d take the sopping elephant out, wring some water out of him, and drop him back in. He looked over at my sister at some point during this activity and grinned and said “all keen” which translates to “all clean.” Which means he was giving the elephant a bath, which I think is maybe because when we went to the zoo most recently, the elephants there were having a bath. They were being hosed down, rather than dropped repeatedly into ice water and wrung out, but still….

…Oh – and my friend Beth pointed out that I never did post any kind of follow up to my recent addiction to the reruns of “Profiler” shown at four in the morning on Court TV…I had been watching what seemed to be some kind of finale and I wanted to see the show that should have been the last episode the next morning. Well – Julia slept late! It was wonderful, sleep-wise, for me, but I missed the entire episode!!! And then the next time I was able to watch, there was some other actress in there as some new Profiler. What happened to the Samantha Waters character????? I did a quick search on line, but all I could find were descriptions of the episode that would have appeared in TV Guide or something like that. I still don’t know how they ended it!! Did she retire? Did she die? I know the actress wanted to leave the show, but that doesn’t tell me what they did with the character. Can anybody fill me in?

This morning it is muggy and kind of foggy here. Julia sort of woke up around 4:30, but after some bottle fell right back asleep. I was going to start cleaning up the kitchen, but wasn’t quite ready to face it. Now, however, I think I am. Plus I hear little bits of noise in the room above me, which is where Alex is, though I hope he sleeps a bit later. He was up waaaaaaaaay past his bed time last night. He had a wonderful time yesterday. He just kind of did his own thing, most of the time, moving from one batch of people to another. The majority of other kids ranged in age from 12 to about 7 or so. My sister’s kids (Calvin and Natalie), and Beth’s kids (Ceileidh and Conor) and Betsy’s kids (Chelsea, Andre and Christopher) were wild. They were chasing each other or playing tag or storming the beaches at Normandy all over the place – back yard, front yard, through the house…changing the rules, yelling at whoever cheated, screaming for no reason other then it’s fun to do that while you’re running with a whole pack of other screaming kids….Other kids of other friends were there too, but the Magnificent Seven I just mentioned were the core group and were there, running and screaming, from the beginning until almost the very end.

We ended things by sunset. Partly so we could get the yard cleaned up before it was dark. Partly so I could get Alex to go to bed. And partly because I just wanted to be able to get some sleep before Julia would be waking me up in the morning. It was nice, actually. Alex was very ready to go to sleep, and Julia dozed off soon after. Bill and I had chowder and smoked salmon and watched some of the Red Sox game before I finally went upstairs. He came up a bit later and apparently (I found the evidence: a red twist tie left on the table by the couch) had stayed behind to finish off the package of white cheddar cheese puffs (with patriotic red and blue specks on them!) that Beth brought. (She says her kids insisted she bring them. Yeah. Sure, Beth.) I found the empty package in the trash can over by the dryer. I think he really stayed up later than I did just so he could have them alllllll to himself.

Gotta go now, I want to get a few dishes put away or a bowl washed before either sleeping child awakens.

Later today I plan to sit out on our deck and do nothing but read the paper.

3 thoughts on “The Annual Clambake/Cookout thing, and other stuff

  1. Thank you Jayne for a wonderful day – the food, company and entertainment (Alex and Julia) were great! And despite my attempts to stay in the shade to avoid the heat, I am quite bronzed from the afternoon! You have a beautiful home and family. Betsy

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