Clamming to Clam Chowder

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Yesterday I got up at 5:30. Why? I went clamming!

While clamming might just seem like the act of gathering/catching clams, there’s a lot more to it than just that. After rolling out of bed and into the car, my family and I drove 2 hours to Lawson’s Landing, a fairly well known clamming location that’s up north (kind of near Mill Valley). We had to bring towels, wetsuits, swimsuits, change of clothes, lots of shoes, and more. It was a big deal. Once we got to the landing, we had to use these inflatable boats from Walmart to paddle across a strait to get to the clamming area. The tide at Lawson’s changes very rapidly, so during the low tide, a small, temporary island forms in the middle of the water, which is used for clamming.

Even from a distance, I could tell that the people there were serious. I mean, almost everyone there had a full body wetsuit on and was carrying a bunch of equipment. Shouts and cries could be heard even from the shore. People were scrambling around, running this way and that, lying flat against the cold mud to try to find even the smallest of clams. It was intense.

To “ferry” everyone across the water in the boats (we were going with 2 other families), it took us 2 trips. But we did reach the shore, and that was when the clamming began. Before I explain what happened, I want to give a big shoutout to one of our family friends, Uncle Andy, as well as my dad, for literally doing all of the dirty work. So basically, clams can dig. They can dig really fast. When clamming, you have to try and look for movements in the sand (usually a small hole that forms and grows bigger). Once you’ve found one, you have to use your hands to catch the clam. While the majority of the of people there used these water pumps that made it easier to find the clams, we had a different method. Using these giant white PVC pipes that Uncle Andy had brought, we would locate and attempt to trap the clams by shoving the pipes into the ground. Then, using a combination of our hands and some long shovels, we would try to dig really fast to find the clams. The pipes are helpful in that they prevent the sand from caving in. Sometimes your hole will go as much as 3-4 feet deep into the ground, so not having to worry about stability is huge. Unfortunately, like I said above, clams dig super fast. We didn’t always catch them, but that made it feel that much better when we did. At first, I didn’t really know what to think of it, but by the end, I realized that it was a really unique experience. It’s cold and it’s wet, yet when you’re in the process of either locating the clams or catching them you’re so focussed in the “strategy” of it that you don’t really care. At the end of the day, Uncle Andy and my dad caught a whole bucket full of clams. It was kind of neat to see difference in size between some of them. I didn’t even know that these giant 1/2 foot ones even existed up until yesterday.

Because we had all these clams, we decided to make something with them. I mean, they really were good, edible clams. Throwing them away would be a waste, so we decided to just go for it! My friend Andrew and his family made New England clam chowder (white), while my mom made the red Manhattan clam chowder that was featured on my blog a few weeks ago. It turned out perfect! The clams were a little chewy, but I didn’t mind at all. They retained the same flavor as store bought clams and were still pretty easy to cook with. The only thing that was different from when I made it a while ago was the fact that my mom had to take all the sand out of the clams before cooking with them. It was neat to experience the process of catching your dinner and then actually making something with your catch.

In conclusion, for an activity that I probably hadn’t even heard of until Thursday, clamming was a lot of fun. It’s very “COVID-19” friendly, because it’s outside and generally you stay away from other people’s “clamming” spots to give them space (it’s kind of a courtesy). The drive up can feel a little long, but hey, long drives could mean a potential stop at McDonalds for breakfast (our go to)! You don’t really need a ton of skill, so if this post has hopefully inspired you to try it out later, totally go for it! One person in your “pod” probably will have to get a little wet and a little dirty, but the clams that you catch really can be used for cooking. You could try pasta dishes (clams and linguine), other soups, or even just plain clams by themselves. Our friend Aunty Sue made delicious fried clams (kind of like calamari but chewier) which I loved! As a small warning, however, clamming does require a little bit of preparation. In order to get the biggest window, you’re probably going to want to make sure that you’re going to Lawson’s during low tide. You also have to get a permit, but that can be done beforehand as well. So there you have it: my clamming experience (or rather, my experience watching others clam)! Even though my job was really just looking for holes in the ground, I enjoyed it because it was definitely something different. I realized after Thursday that I’m grateful for quarantine, as it has given me so many new opportunities in food blogging. Never would I have guessed that I would be clamming this summer, but I was and now I have an epic post for you all! So yeah, stay safe and thanks for reading.

Recipe that we used

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The finished product! Good old Manhattan clam chowder! 
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Crossing the river! We were lucky none of the boats tipped over…
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My sister Sophie and her friend Caroline holding up a big clam! It’s bigger than her hand and that’s not even close to the biggest ones in size!
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My dad and Uncle Andy scooping mud out of the tubes to catch the clams.
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My friend Andrew made New England clam chowder (white), which also turned out great! Very creamy and light, yet still flavorful.
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The meat of the clams. As you can see, some of them were huge!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ksfong_95008 says:

    Nate,

    Congrats. Did you get your limit? Size? Post pics of your haul.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. Aunty Tracie says:

    What an awesome adventure! That’s definitely something we can’t do here in Hawaii. What a great experience for everyone. Wonder what your next expedition will be…

    Like

  3. NorCalKenny says:

    Looks like you had a lot of fun. Sounds like some great chowder. You going to write about McD’s?

    Like

  4. Geri Lawhon says:

    Both of these clam chowders are great, but I give my vote to the New England one.

    Like

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