Sadly, the end of summer is near. My kids, as usual, have had a great one filled with swimming, big vacations to the beach, mini-vacations to surrounding cities, and much, much more. But next week, they’ll be back in school.
Before summer officially comes to an end, I thought I would share one of my favorite summer recipes: New England clam chowder.
I make it every single summer and sometimes throughout the school year, too. It’s surprisingly quick and bursting with flavor. I made it one Friday evening last summer, and as I ladled the steaming stuff into bowls for my two boys and husband, I began to reminisce aloud.
“Ah, boys,” I said, stilling my dripping ladle for a moment as I got a faraway look in my eyes. “This recipe is the exact same one we used during the summertimes of my youth, when I grew up on Long Island and summered in Nantucket.”
My boys’ eyes filled with wonder. My husband dropped his spoon with a clatter. “What the…?” he muttered.
I ignored him and went on. “Grams used to take us to the beach all day—we weren’t wussies afraid of the sun back then. Grams felt like it was good for our souls and good for our health. We would frolic in the waves and the seafoam, collect sea glass, feast on fresh lobster rolls, and not begin our short trek back to the beach house until the sun was going down. Yes,” I continued, so into my memories that I didn’t notice my husband rooting through the recycling bin, “your aunts and uncles and I worked up huge beach appetites that could only be quenched with hot, steaming bowls of Grams’s famous clam chowder.”
“New England clam chowder,” I finished, breaking out of my reverie to continue serving the thick soup. “The stuff of my youth.”
As my boys oohed and aahed, begging me to continue with these stories they’d somehow never heard, my husband stopped foraging and revealed his prize.
“This, boys,” he said triumphantly, holding up an empty can of Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder, “is your mom’s definition of ‘summering on Nantucket.’”
“You’ve always got to ruin everything,” I muttered, slopping some more of my canned clam chowder into my husband’s bowl so that a little dripped onto his seat. I hoped he wouldn’t notice until after he sat down and it was too late.
Listen, you guys, I can’t help it if Elin Hilderbrand equals summer to me and I hoard her novels, only reading them between the months of May and September because I’m a seasonal reader and love beach novels in the summer.
Of course I didn’t grow up on Long Island and summer on Nantucket; I’m a Midwestern girl and “summering” meant being dropped off at the local pool all day so that my mom could lay out in the back yard and drink. And it was awesome. But Nantucket is still a place I would love to visit—thanks to Ms. Hilderbrand.
(Remind me to tell you about the time I took a trip to Ireland because I loved Maeve Binchy’s books…or the time I flew to Spain to meet friends of a friend but couldn’t actually point Spain out on a map when I got there.)
Anyhoo, a couple of weeks after my husband called me out last summer, I knew the gig was up. So as the boys waited patiently at the table for their lunch after a long morning of swimming, I grabbed a can of this stuff out of the cabinet in full view of them and started cranking the can opener.
My older son looked at me, crestfallen. “But Mom…what about your summers on Nantucket? Frolicking in the waves…feasting on fresh lobster rolls…? You mean…you just…open a can?”
“Oh, buddy,” I said, kneeling down so that I could address him eye-to-eye, “you didn’t think Mommy was serious, did you? All of that ‘catching the clams with my net over the boat’ shit? Hell, I don’t even know if there are actual clams in clam chowder. I thought your dad cleared all of this up a couple of weeks ago…?”
My boy’s lip quivered. “I thought he was joking,” he said.
But dammit this soup is good.