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Best Clam Chowder Recipe is Our Family Heirloom


Clam Legacy of  Great-Grampa Scott

According to my mother Phyllis, who keeps track of these things, great-Grampa Scott was born in Pennsylvania in 1856, but moved to Western Massachusetts as a young laborer to blast the famous Hoosic Tunnel out of solid rock, linking the East and West by railroad. Dad says he used to crow about how the construction teams dug in from both sides simultaneously, and when the two crews met in the middle of the mountain, their separate tunnels were just half an inch apart.

That done, he married Nina and settled in as a Worcester firefighter riding the back wheel of a great horse drawn hook and ladder rig. According to family legend, John Scott never learned to drive an automobile because the wheel in his fire engine required him to turn left in order to swing the ladder right. He figured that after 30 years turning a steering wheel the wrong way, he'd never learn to do it correctly.

best_clam_chowder_02When he retired in 1921 aged 65, John Scott was told his years were numbered due to a heart condition, so from April to October, he lived on the ocean near Cape Cod. When my father was young, due to his asthma, he moved from his parent's family farm in western Mass. to live with Grampa and Gram Scott. Apparently the salt air did its work because John Scott lived to age 89. Dad still works out on his treadmill every morning at age 87. When I was little, we spent time each summer at either my father's rustic family camp or my mother's rustic family camp on Cape Cod. Her father was from Ireland, but that’s a story for another holiday.

In one of my earliest memories, I'm sitting in a wooden boat that my father is towing as he wades along the mucky clam flats, tossing in these giant bivalves. When I mentioned this image to my mother, she went right to the photo album and pulled out the scene. In the fuzzy picture I'm just on the tepid side of two years old and wearing a captain's cap. She says we were at Pochasset near her parent's camp, which I remember mostly for the mountains of clam, quahog, oyster, muscle and scallop shells that rose into the sky from the sandy back yard.

Years later my archeologist brother Brian discovered a 5,000 year old Indian skeleton buried under the clam flats of Seabrook, NH. The dusty outline of the bones remained, he said, because the burial lay beneath a great mound of discarded shells. The limestone, you see, had preserved it. That's when I first understood the power of clams.


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