There is nothing more mouthwatering for a native New Hampshirite
than the thought of a genuine “clambake.” The real deal takes time to create, but the resulting meal is unmistakably worth the work.
I will ashamedly admit that the only true clambake that I attended didn’t happen in New England. About ten years ago, my extended family enjoyed an entire Yankee Clambake flown into a camp in Upstate New York. A fire pit was built on the shores of Lake Pleasant, using imported Maine seaweed and local stones. Unfortunately, the experience was wasted on most of the “flatlanders” who were attending. Half of the guests could not be cajoled into putting on the plastic bibs and plying the lobster-cracking tools. Those folks didn’t put a damper on my enjoyment of the feast, although they did raise eyebrows at my insistence on naming the lobsters I was going to eat before they were placed in the pit.
I’d say the majority of New Hampshirites (and New Englanders for that matter) have not experienced a clambake. Now don’t be smug and say, “I have.” Do not confuse a “Clam Boil” with a clambake. If you don’t have a fire pit with the stones and seaweed, then you don’t have a clam BAKE. If your lobster and clams are boiled in a pot, then they is not baked… get it? [Although the irony of a real clambake is that the food is actually “steamed” in the pit].
As far as I can tell, all of the towns along New Hampshire’s tiny coastline ban fires on the beach. This means that the odds of you experiencing a real clambake in New Hampshire, at least with the ocean in view, is pretty poor.
Much has been already written about the history and origin of the clambake. According to some sources, clambakes were being held on our shores before the Europeans arrived, as the coastal Native Peoples had “feasts of shells.” For once I’ll leave the historical research to others.
For those of you who are clambake-challenged, here is a list of food usually served at a clambake…
– New England Clam Chowder (or Corn and/or Seafood Chowder)
– Mussels or Clams with Herbed Butter and/or Garlic
– Lobster with Drawn Butter
– Fresh Corn on the Cob
– Baked Potato with Sour Cream
– Optional Add-Ons: 1/4 Rotisserie Chicken, Baked Onions, Cole Slaw, Potato Chips, Lemonade
Depending on where you are originally from, you could add a few items to this list, such as sausage, watermelon, potato salad instead of baked, etc.
Whether you attend a clamBAKE or a clamBOIL, be sure to use real New Hampshire lobster. If you see the tag “Genuine Maine Lobster” on the claw, throw it back.
-Yankee Magazine: A Real New England Clambake and Clambake Sauce–
-Wikipedia: New England Clambake–
-New Hampshire: Red Tide is Biblical–