Do Clams Bite?
Chapter 12: On the Sizes of Clams
YOU CAN READ THE FIRST HALF
MORE SHORT DIGRESSION, this time on the sizes of clams. When the
day’s clamming is over, the clammy culls the clams, sorting them by size.
There are four sizes of Mercenaria mercenaria in the wild: seeds,
littlenecks, cherrystones, and chowder clams.
If you have an adult hand and close your thumb and forefinger to make an oval, you will have defined the approximate size of a littleneck. Littlenecks are the youngest, tenderest of the legal sizes. They should be eaten as they are, raw, or cooked only very briefly. No one with a sense of the fitness of things would ever use them for chowder. Anything smaller than a littleneck is a seed, a clam too young to take. The culler should throw those back into the bay, but many a clammy will tell you that the little ones go very nicely as a snack with a beer. The shells of littlenecks have few practical uses, but they are perfect for crafting handsome whatnots to fill the shelves in your living room, and they make nice jewelry.
If you form another oval with your thumb and forefinger, leaving a gap of about an inch this time, you will have defined the upper limit of a cherrystone. Cherrystones are good for everything. You can eat them raw or steam them or use them in a sauce for pasta, and you can use them in chowder if you’re expecting company, elegant company: tall, slim men in dinner jackets, long-stemmed and angular women in silk. The shells are really a little large for earrings, and a little small for ashtrays, unless you’re having an elegant little dinner party with the people mentioned above. Most cherrystone shells end up as driveway topping, but quite a few are made into knickknacks and whatnots by people who have somewhat larger knickknack or whatnot shelves than the people who make their knickknacks and whatnots from littleneck shells.
Anything larger than a cherrystone is a chowder clam, and as its name suggests, it is really only good for chowder, and only everyday chowder at that. Now everyday chowder is nothing to sneer at, and there are many occasions when it is just the thing—cold, blustery, rainy days, for instance. Many clam fanciers consider chowder clams the most flavorful and littlenecks almost insipid; others, of course, find the littlenecks sweet and subtle and think that a mouthful of chowder clam is a lot like a mouthful of rubber bands. The shells of chowder clams are widely used as ashtrays.
At Corinne’s Fabulous Fruits of the Sea, one of the places where I conduct my research, Porky White, slurping down a few necks flavored with some pepper and lemon one night, said to me, “You know, they’re a lot like women, clams. The older ones are kinda tough and wily, but they have real flavor. Those in their prime are sort of the standard, the ideal, but since they’re what most people want, the real connoisseur generally wants something else. Now the younger ones, well, they are tenderer, and there are times when tenderness is all, but after a few you find yourself wanting something that you can chew on. And the ones that are too young are a guilty pleasure; you know that you shouldn’t even consider them, but every once in a while, when no one’s looking—”
The pepper must have gotten to him. He broke off and blew his nose in his napkin.
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Little Follies is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
“My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “Call Me Larry” were originally published in paperback by Apple-Wood Books.
Little Follies was first published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail the author’s imaginary agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.