“Back in the day” when I was a kid we lived in a community where I was surrounded by cousins. My father’s brothers and sister all lived in the same vicinity, and there were plenty of kids to go around. And there were extended families on my mother’s side in the area, as well.
My maternal grandmother lived with us, but my paternal grandmother lived in a little cottage on what had been her family farm at one point. She was a diminutive woman; it was hard to believe she had given birth to six children. It seemed as if a strong wind could easily blow her away.
Once a year we gathered at her house for a family clam steam. My father and uncles would go someplace (?) and come back with burlap bags filled with dozens and dozens of fresh clams. We spent the whole day eating raw clams and steamed clams. There were always more than we could eat…those were the days.
When late afternoon rolled around my grandmother would abscond with several dozen clams and go to her summer kitchen on the back of the cottage where she mixed a batter and stirred in cubed clams. When we were ready for the evening meal she would scoop out portions of the batter onto the grill and cook up dozens upon dozens of clam fritters. Fresh-from-the-farm butter and fresh, local maple syrup were on the table, and it was “all you can eat” for as long as supper lasted. It was the highlight of the day.
I’ve never had clam fritters since. They aren’t found in many, if any, restaurants, and we’ve never had the urge to make them at home. But my memory of them recalls that they were unbelievably good.
Since then I’ve learned that there are all kinds of fritters. Corn fritters (a favorite) are similar, but fresh sweet corn is the additive. Apple fritters show up on diner menus. They are, for the most part, deep fat fried. It makes them a little different, but they are still tasty.
In Rhode Island May 1st is a reason for churches, particularly in small communities, to have clam cakes and johnny cake breakfasts. Johnny Cake is corn bread, and every church in Rhode Island seems to have its own recipe for fixing the tasty bread.
But then there are the clam cakes, which are rolled into balls and dropped into hot oil for deep fat frying. Some people try to convince me that they are clam fritters, but they aren’t successful. People here in Rhode Island go crazy after their clam cakes. Iggy’s is a restaurant on the shore which has a line out the door whenever they are open. I’m not fond of clam cakes, as I don’t like deep fat fried foods. And I think I was spoiled by my grandmother’s clam fritters. There’s history with them … personal history that recreates memories of a great day in the summer when my whole family, dozens of us, converged on that little cottage.
Photo Credit: Taste.com