Why Are Clam Lovers So Selfish?

ECHO underway, posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The images for this post are available via Connecticut History Online here and here.

A lowly pun for the lowly clam. The clam isn’t Connecticut’s Official State Shellfish. (That’s the imperial oyster, the subject of another blog post.) But for centuries Native Americans harvested and dined on clams along Long Island Sound. Europeans and their descendants in Connecticut also harvested clams, but preferred oysters for their commercial value. Not until the early twentieth-century invention of tools such as bull rakes (with curved teeth and based on a Native American design) and the development of the railroad tying Connecticut to the major market of New York City did clamming become a viable, and profitable, commercial enterprise.

Little wonder then, that clam recipes (other than chowder) appear more frequently in early twentieth-century cookbooks in New England and throughout the nation. One consistent clam recipe, however, is always qualified with the state’s name:

Connecticut Clam Pie

Fill a buttered baking-dish with alternate layers of minced clams and thin slices of boiled potatoes, dredging each layer of clams with flour. Season with salt, pepper, grated onion, and minced parsley. When the dish is full, pour one cupful of clam-juice, add three tablespoons of strained tomato, cover with a pastry crust, and bake brown in a quick oven.

This recipe, word for word, is identical in Olive Green, Everyday Dinners ( New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1911), and in Myrtle Reed, The Myrtle Reed Cookbook (New York and London: The Knickerbocker Press, 1916). And it’s not to be confused with clam pie recipes from Long Island and from Maryland.

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