Clam or Cod?

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I made a large pot of fish chowder last week when it was rainy and not at all hot here (it’s been quite the opposite weather-wise this week). I was inspired by this post and recipe by Laila. Making this chowder reminded me of the many years that I lived on the New England sea coast. I used to live in Rhode Island, it’s where I went to grad school and that’s where Thomas and I met. I lived in the southern part of the state, only minutes from the beach, for almost 10 years before coming to live in the Rheinland region of Germany with my husband and our daughter in 2010. I miss Rhode Island a lot, I miss the ocean and the wide openness that is never far from you when you are there and the joys of being so near to the sea with its beauty that always beckons to me winter through summer. I miss the sandy beaches and the rocky shores that line the southern coast of Rhode Island, swimming in the surf in the summer, walks along the smooth beaches and the rocky shore lined paths which dip down to wavy rough seas in the fall and winter and seeing families of seals regularly coming back to Narragansett Bay to winter over there at the end of every year, basking in the sun as they repose themselves on the harbor’s flat rocks and swimming in the bays warmer waters, taking up residency along the harbor coast right up until late spring. And of course I really miss the wide assortment of fresh fish and molluscs that are available year round there. The best chowders, however, are only available during the summer months at the various fish shacks and dives along the coast and boast the option of a thin and clear, flavorful broth or a thicker and creamier, white broth chowder. This all brings me back to “Clam or Cod?” a passage from one of my favorite chapters in the book Moby-Dick that I first read when I was in high-school and makes me long for a bowl of chowder every time I read it:
A picture for the book Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

[And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving Mrs. Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his affairs. Upon making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned round to us and said- "Clam or Cod?"

"What's that about Cods, ma'am?" said I, with much politeness.

"Clam or Cod?" she repeated.

"A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?" says I, "but that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain't it, Mrs. Hussey?"

But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple shirt who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word "clam," Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out "clam for two," disappeared.

"Queequeg," said I, "do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?"

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey's clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word "cod" with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.]
- Herman Melville

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‘Cod’ Chowder

Adapted from Table of Colors

4 Tablespoons of Butter
1 1/2-2 pounds of Cod/Salmon/or other boneless fish, I used a mix of both Salmon and Pollock
4-6 medium sized waxy Potatoes diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large or 2 medium sized onions diced
1 large Leek washed and cut into rounds
1 large celery root, peeled and cut into cubes
2 cups (400 ml) of Fish Stock
2-3 cups of Water
3/4-1 cup of Dry White Wine
Chopped fresh Chives and Dill (about 1/4 cup of each)
Salt and Black pepper to taste

In a large soup pot or dutch oven saute the onions, leek, carrots and celery root in butter stirring well until the onions soften and become translucent. Add stock and potatoes and enough water so that the vegetables are just covered. Simmer with a lid on until the vegetables are almost tender but not quite done yet. Add wine, salt and pepper to taste and return to a simmer for about 5 minutes then add the uncooked pieces of fish and submerge them into the soup and cook for at least 5 minutes more or until the fish is cooked through. Adjust the seasoning, stir in the fresh herbs and serve immediately.

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Home Again

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Thomas, Anna and I went home for the month of June to visit my family in upstate New York. First we flew into New Jersey, arriving at Newark airport after a long flight from Germany the last week of May. We spent a few days at my aunt’s house visiting with my aunt, uncle and cousins and going to the beach for a day of windswept fun in the sun, sand and chilly end of spring ocean waters. We built castles, collected shells and smooth rocks, and drew pictures in the sand with Anna. We even ventured into the waves a bit letting them crash against us up to our knees, lifting Anna up every time a large wave would overpower us getting us wet but not thoroughly soaked. I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures of us on the beach this summer so this one from two years ago will have to suffice but it looked pretty much the same as the last time we were there, minus the boots and heavy winter clothes of course. ;)

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Sandy Hook, NJ / 2012

After leaving New Jersey we headed home to where I spent most of my childhood and young adult life in a quaint town in upstate New York. You can just barely see my dad’s house next to the barn hidden behind the bushes below. This is where I grew up and were I spend most if not all of my summers after I moved away to Rhode Island to go to college and then to teach. DSCF0231
I would always come home on as many weekends as I could when I was still attending the University of Rhode Island and then a bit less once I started teaching math at a community college not far from where I went to grad school but by the end of each scholastic year, in May, I always joyfully made the summer long retreat back to my hometown in New York spending as much time as I could with my family and friends and enjoying the lazy summer months of tending to my garden at my grandfather’s house and working a summer job at the town pool/recreation center for the summer.
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Since I’ve been in Germany with my husband and daughter we only get to spend about 4-6 weeks at home with my family when I come to visit in the summer. It’s bittersweet for me since I miss the land, the wide open spaces and the pastoral countryside that holds such a large part of my heart while I am away but while I am there I try to enjoy all the things that I miss so much when I’m gone. This year I was able to put in a garden at my grandfathers house again. We started in late May tilling the soil by hand with an old shovel from my grandfather’s shed, hoeing and pulling out the weeds by hand and then sowing seeds and planting seedlings in the first week of June.
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I used the grass clippings from after mowing the yard as mulch, raking up as much as I could to put around the plants and in-between to keep the weeds from coming up and to keep the moisture in the soil. I was busy watering, weeding and mulching the garden for a good part of the time that I was staying at my family’s home. Since my grandfather’s house in only about an 1/8th of a mile down the road from the house where I grew up and where I was staying I would walk there most mornings, before it got too hot to do anything, to work on the garden for about an hour or so every day.
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Anna would happily come along with me to play in the large yard behind my grandfather’s garden looking for snails to play with and to build homes for, finding sticks and pine combs and an empty birds nest, eating the ripe currants off the currant bush and exploring the wet tall grass lined field that divides the property between my grandfather’s and my dad’s house.
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This summer I planted onions, beans and beets from seed,
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Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, zucchini, cucumber, Swiss chard, two types of kale and basil plants from seedlings.
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Then to relax Anna, my sister Jess, my niece Ava and I would cool off at the town pool and have an impromptu pic-nick lunch there or in the afternoons take a dip in my dad’s pool at the house. We often went out for ice cream with the girls and before Thomas had to leave we went to one of our all time favorite summer destinations, a gorge in a nearby town, where the ankle deep water flows through carving its way through the steep walled shale, periodically collecting into waterfalls and little swimming holes along the way.
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We also spent quite a bit of time at my mom’s house playing with her animals: chickens, rabbits, cats and a very sweet, hound dog named Rags Tucker. I got the chance to sew a summer dress for myself and take yoga and exercise classes with my mom at her home and town studios. Anna loved jumping on the trampoline in my mom’s yard and swinging in the aerial yoga hammocks that hang in the spacious yoga studio at the back of my mom’s house.

We even went to Massachusetts for a few days to spend time with my mom, my sister and my brothers at a resort in the Berkshire mountains and my aunt and cousin on my mom’s side came to see us all there too!
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— My Mom and Me

We had a lot of fun spending time with my family this summer and saying goodbye at the end of our trip was definitely the hardest part.

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