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Food Stories

History of the New England Clambake

By Suzannah Schneider | July 21, 2014

Photo by andrewyang
Photo by andrewyang

Photo by andrewyang

Marcus is hosting a traditional New England clambake on the Jersey Shore this Saturday at The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival. In preparing for the event, many of us here in the Marcus Samuelsson Group offices recently found ourselves quite curious about the custom. We turned to trusty Google to learn more, and wanted to share our findings with you.

Today, clambakes are no longer exclusive to New England, as they are incredibly popular in Ohio and even California. There are also endless variations in technique and ingredients. For instance, some clambakes include sausages and other meat. In the past, seafood was not considered an adequate protein source for the men doing the hard labor of digging and gathering for the clambake, so meat was added for energy. This is why some clam chowder includes ham bone or bacon. Other menu items for a clambake can include lobster, white potatoes, corn, and cold beer; the only universal item is steamed clams. Clambakes have also been streamlined in recent years with the use of enormous stainless-steel pots heated by propane burners.

We were astonished to learn that clambakes have been a tradition in New England for over 2,000 years. Native American tribes of states such as Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut have long cooked clams and lobsters in sand pits as means of subsistence. In fact, it is possible to still stumble upon remnants of historic cooking pits in Rhode Island.

A 1947 clambake in Pembroke, Massachusetts. Photo by Boston Public Library

A 1947 clambake in Pembroke, Massachusetts. Photo by Boston Public Library

A traditional clambake begins by digging a pit in the sand of the beach where the clams are gathered. The pit is a product of centuries past: Native Americans did not have massive cooking pots, so they used the earth as their cooking vessel. The pit is then filled with seaweed, lined with hot rocks or stones that have been heated until white-hot over a wood fire. Next, live clams, mussels, and lobsters are added, and the pit is covered with more seaweed and some sand. Finally, a wet tarp of canvas or plastic is laid over all until the food is cooked.

The end product of a clambake is not necessarily a decadent meal. Clambakes are the types of cultural traditions that don’t just feed the participants. Instead, they are deeply nourishing events for the individual and the community. Kathy Neustadt’s book Clambake paints a vivid picture of the Allen’s Neck Friends Meeting’s annual clambake in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which has occurred on the third Thursday of August since 1888 (!). Neustadt discusses how the event is inclusive, relying on the abilities of every individual.  She also emphasizes how clambakes revere the surrounding environment, relying on the fertile soil and easy access to the ocean to create the custom. Clambakes exist as a reminder of ancestry as time marches on.

Few meals are as fulfilling as a clambake. It is an all-day activity that yields scrumptious results, but the long process and intricate cooking method creates a reverence for the tradition and its participants.

 

Farmer's Market

Fresh Corn, 5 Ways

By Alexandra Fleischman | July 3, 2013

roasted corn, corn on the cob, leftover corn

I couldn’t say what’s more traditional than corn on the cob for the 4th of July. Both sweet and complex, with butter and salt, it’s classic. But for the ears of corn you don’t get to this Thursday, or the extra you couldn’t resist picking up, try it a different way. Here are five ways to get you started: Read More

Food for Thought

By The Numbers: Corn

By Mac Malikowski | March 12, 2013

Roasted-Acorn-Squash-and-Corn-Soup

With corn season just around the CORN-er, it’s interesting to consider the United States’ role in this nearly perfect commodity.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, America is the largest producer of corn in the world and is grown on over 400,000 U.S. farms. Grown mostly in the Heartland, there is some 80 million acres of farm that is dedicated to corn in America. That’s about the size of Germany.  In 2000, the U.S. produced almost ten billion bushels of the world’s total 23 billion bushel crop. Read More

News

Street Food Focus: Mexican Street Corn

By admin | January 19, 2012

Photo: I Believe I Can Fry

Photo: I Believe I Can Fry

By: Cyndi Amaya

There are so many reasons why I love living in Queens. Besides enjoying the cheaper rent, ample parking, and above-ground subways, Queens is the most culturally diverse borough in New York, which means the greatest thing for the ultimate foodie- a wide variety of food!

Jackson Heights in particular has the highest concentration of different ethnicities, all living just within minutes of Roosevelt Avenue- the Mecca of ethnic food, especially street food. Along Roosevelt between 69th street and Junction Boulevard, you can find Indian, Pakistani, Greek, Italian, Argentinean, Colombian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Caribbean, Thai, and Chinese and I might even be forgetting a couple of other ethnicities.

The Mexican cuisine in Jackson Heights is legit, to say the least! Read More

News

Genetically Modified Crops and Their Genetically Modified Bugs

By admin | August 30, 2011

Photo: Peter Blanchard

Photo: Peter Blanchard

Reading about a super plague attacking genetically-modified corn seems like a story out of ancient times and the future put together. Yet, that is exactly what is occurring in the United States and Europe as we speak. As the debate of pros and cons of genetically-modified foods continues, this turn of events can count as a con to those rallying for GMO foods.

A pest has now succumbed to feeding off of genetically modified corn, though this type of corn was developed by Monsanto to thwart off rootworms. Ironically, nature still finds a way. Read More

News

Why Eating Vegetarian Is Important

By admin | June 22, 2011

This hearty Leek Bread Pudding is vegetarian!

This hearty Leek Bread Pudding is vegetarian!

Eating vegetarian is rapidly becoming a new and important trend in food and food justice. The health benefits of eating vegetarian cannot be ignored. Even part-time vegetarians, those of us who can’t resist a great burger, can partake in this important movement by participating in Meatless Mondays, cutting back on the red meat, focusing on eating more fresh and flavorful greens, and trying some of these great vegetarian recipes, like the leek bread pudding, above! Read More

News

Katie Cizewski – Meatless Monday – Saving the Planet with Mexican Corn on the Cob

By mahir | September 13, 2010

Meatless Monday – Saving the Planet with Mexican Corn on the Cob

In case you haven’t heard, lots of chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies (just like you!) are making a difference by serving vegetarian options at their restaurants or by not eating meat on Mondays. The goal is to cut meat consumption by 15% and to promote personal health and the health of our planet. Don’t think eating a veggie burger instead can make a dent? Well the scientific evident is overwhelming but suffice it to say that the production of beef, pork, and poultry burns more fossil fuel, uses more water, produces more methane gas, and leads to the destruction of more forest land than the vegetarian calorie and nutrition equivalent – by many times over. What’s more, if the grain that was used to feed livestock in the United States was instead used to feed everyone in America, we’d all be full and there would still be enough grain left over to feed everyone in India, that’s three hundred million people here and a billion people there. But enough with the preaching! If you are reading this post, chances are that you’ve already decided to go meatless on Mondays – congratulations! – all the cool kids (and cool chefs like Marcus Samuelsson) are doing it. So what’s on the menu for this Monday?

Read More

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Photo by Sudhamshu Sauces & Rubs

By Marcus Samuelsson

Awase

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Meet the Team

About The Team

Whether it’s finding the best goat tacos in LA, spotting a well-worn vintage bag in Sweden, or interviewing the “crab man” selling seafood on a corner in Harlem, we tell stories seen from Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s point of view. MarcusSamuelsson.com strives to create conversations about food, nutrition, culture, art, and design. We want to find Read More

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