If your house is anything like mine, there are as many cookbooks in your library as there are from about any other genre. Some of these are there as much for reading pleasure as for any assistance they might offer at the stove, and I am especially drawn to those that evoke a sense of place and the place of food within a continuum of family and society. Regional cuisines feature prominently, and while I may never need to crack the spine of the lavishly illustrated book on Cape Malay cooking I picked up in southern Africa, it would take no time at all to travel to the place in my mind's eye should I chose to do so. For the same reason I cannot bear to part with my copy of Lorna Sass' "Dinner with Tom Jones: Eighteenth-Century Cookery Adapted for the Modern Kitchen, even though the only recipe from it I have attempted - "A Flounder Pie, Savoury", left me a bit cold.
No matter; I am instantly transported to "another time's forgotten space" by great food writing and it is a joy to find worthy examples in the blogs I read. David Churbuck wrote a superb piece today, one of his occasional clamming features entitled Consider the Fried Clam that managed to hit every one of my gustatory, nostalgic, and New England heritage buttons.
"The steamer is so dubbed for the popular method of cooking them in a pot with an inch of water. The clam is thus rendered edible, and after the diner pulls the clam from its shell, skins the siphon or neck from its leathery (insert tasteless reference to prophylactics here), the clam is dunked in a cup of warm grey clam broth (derived from the steaming water), then molten butter before being dropped, Roman-grape style, into one’s open mouth. The steamer is staple fare in ye Olde New England Clam Bake, where it accompanies lobsters, ears of corn and spicy Portuguese sausage in what has to be the single best contribution to the global cuisine that Cape Cod has ever made.
If you don’t steam the soft-shelled clam, then there aren’t a lot of options available to the intrepid diner. Unlike their hard-shelled friends the quahog or oyster, M. Arenaria cannot be eaten raw on the half-shell. The shell is too fragile, the clam is too ….disorganized, and aside from assorted fish and sea gulls, few creatures would go out of their way to eat a raw steamer.
This all changed in the summer of 1916 in the coastal town of Ipswich, north of Boston, when 'Chubby' Woodman decided to batter some local steamers and deep fry them at his seafood restaurant."
This is stirring stuff, especially for one who craved fried clams above all summer pleasures as a boy. Go read the whole thing.
There must be something in the (unseasonably sultry) New England air this week, but Sissy Willis does for "Chelsea Baked Beans" what Churbuck did for clams. Sissy is losing weight while cooking with non-hydrogenated lard and dishing out toothsome, classic fare that may well elevate lowly "franks and beans" to ambrosia status.
Lard returns to the classic Boston Baked Bean Pot, Chelsea style. Above baking in a 300° oven this morning, hour two of six. You can't beat the old-fashioned New England look of our brown-and tan pot--purchased years ago from L.L. Bean's to replace our previous one, whose top had slipped the surly bonds of our mitted hands and gone crashing to the floor. Both the handles and the knob on top of the lid are too small. Today's bean pots are a definite improvement in that department. On the other hand, there is something that doesn't like a bean pot whose handles are too easy to grasp.
So, my friends, what food blogging gets your juices flowing? Any specific posts you would recommend that make your taste buds tingle and transport you by their fine writing and sense of time and place? Pass them on!