We spread and scrutinize the clams on our beach-pebbled patio designed and built by my dad . Then we segregate and group each by size. The clams bathe for two days in cornmeal and water in stockpots outside on our patio. They cleanse and purify themselves in this manner. They open up their shells and suck in or “inhale” the clean water and cornmeal. They discharge impurities as they “exhale.”
After separating all the clams, I take a nice warm bubble bath with my pink box of Mr. Bubbles soap flakes and reminisce about our adventure and our loot. I adore fragrances even as a youngster and I splash on some light and citrusy Jean Nate toilet water. Later that night, I join my family and sit around the old brick red picnic table with attached benches. Our crimson brick barbeque stands proudly in the right hand corner of our pebbled patio. My dad built the barbeque too. He can build, manufacture or fix anything. He taught me how to build fires on the beach without using lighter fluid or gas. I have handed down my pyrotechnic skills to my daughter, V, named after my dad.
The tastiest, most delicious and scrumptious clams are the one-inchers. They are miniscule bites of delight. We always eat the petite appetizers the very same night we bring them home. The pygmy clams perch precariously on the grill over the fire my dad has started. Each tiny mollusk gives up its life in its own time, at its own pace. My dad stands watch so he can pick them up with his tongs at the peak of their flavor, the moment of their final surrender. He proudly and carefully brings them to us one by one, without spilling any clam liquor, to our table.
I squeeze a little lemon into the bottom casing full of tepid seawater. Alive just a few seconds ago, my savory amuse bouche awaits its destiny. My victim lays steeped in tart ocean juice. I dig the rubbery meat out with my fingers. I detach its muscle from its plum – colored home. I place it in my puckered mouth. I swallow it whole as I chase it down with the salty, lemony broth. I slurp with a slight intake of air and it slides down my throat, smoothly, quickly and completely.
I relish and wonder in awe at the magical and vivid moments of a great summer day. It is great to be alive! It feels “oh so good ” as well as honest and satisfying to dine on gifts from the sea I toiled hard to unearth from the sea floor and brought up from the bottom of a clam bed. I feel safe and secure on our beach-pebbled patio. I do not take for granted the delicacy and pure exquisiteness of newly opened Little Neck clams and this moment in time. I grasp and hold close to my heart, the holiness of the event.
Possibly from the lessons I learned as a child, I value, respect, cherish, and find it sacred to eat fresh caught, fresh picked, freshly prepared or freshly harvested food. It is a blessing to obtain, make ready and serve nourishing (preferably organic) meals with tender, loving care.
May you dine on simple, true flavors layered by time, shared with others and realize the moment as a gift.