After one of the usual clamming trips this summer, I asked the kids what they’d like me to make with the clams for dinner that night. With so many clam dishes in our collective repertoire, I asked the kids to tell me their favorites.
Julia’s – clamcakes.
Alex’s – chowder AND clamcakes.
I think I’d picked Alex up after a baseball practice or something when I asked him. I seem to remember having this conversation in the car. Anyway, he thought about it some more and said it was too bad I couldn’t put chowder inside a clamcake.
And with that, the Chowdercake was born.
I thought that by combining the flavor components of our basic clam chowder with our clamcake batter, I’d get something pretty tasty.
I took some bacon trimmings out of the freezer, diced them up and rendered the fat.
I took the crispy bacon bits out of the fat and added some diced onion.
While the onions softened, I mixed flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. To that I added chopped fresh dill and thyme.
The kitchen smelled delicious, in case you were curious.
I took our freshly dug, freshly steamed clams…
and tossed them into the food processor along with the sautéed-in-bacon-fat onions, the onion fat, and a few of the crisped bacon bits. I pulsed everything together until the clams were chopped.
Scratchy summoned me from the living room.
He indicated that I hadn’t taken a picture of him lately and the world might be wondering if he was okay.
Here’s Scratchy being okay:
Back to the kitchen….
Time to put the chowder in the clamcakes!
I added eggs, the clam mixture, and clam stock to the flour mixture and started heating the oil.
I used a small ice cream scoop to drop blobs of batter into the 360F oil…
And I fried them until they were brown. I don’t have a time – it’ll depend on the size of your clamcakes, how many you’re cooking at a time, how hot your oil stays while cooking, and how light or dark on the outside you like them. I usually take out the biggest one in the first batch and split it open when I think it’s done. If it’s cooked through, I take the rest out, let the oil come back up to temp if it’s dropped, and then I use a combination of The Force and Intuition and Educated Guessing to judge the frying time of subsequent batches.
Everyone liked them. Loved them. Ate too many of them.
We could taste the bacon fat, of course, along with the clams, and with every bite we’d taste fresh dill or thyme or both.
Chowder inside the clamcake.
The school year has begun. Bill went back to school a couple days before the kids did, and I had to work, so the kids were on their own.
No big deal. They’ve been home alone before. They have keys, they have cell phones, and, most importantly, they have good heads on their shoulders.
I checked in with them through the day via text, and I’d given them a list of stuff to do. It’s nice having kids who can do laundry and empty the dishwasher.
Somewhere around lunch time they asked if they could go play. The only thing left undone was a load of laundry in the dryer, and one in the washer waiting for the dryer load to get out of the way.
I asked if they’d had lunch and one of them texted back “Yes – we made nachos.”
I stared at the phone screen for a moment.
I’d shown them how to make nachos the night before.
Now, just so you know, we don’t have a microwave any more. Our old one died and I was campaigning for us NOT to replace it, but I was outvoted initially. We got a new one – smaller, though, because the other one took up way too much space on the counter – and it didn’t work right so we brought it back and decided to do a bit more research to find a better one.
And time went by and went by and went by…and we still don’t have one and Bill has said we don’t need one after all, so – yay!
But I digress.
So – nachos. When we used to have a microwave, Julia learned to melt cheese on tortilla chips in the microwave all by herself. Alex preferred to let me do the cheese melting.
The other night after Open House at the junior high (JUNIOR HIGH!!!) Alex was hungry and asked if I’d make him some fake nachos. We didn’t have tortilla chips, so he suggested saltines. Okay. Why not?
And it worked – the crackers stayed crispy. I used a mix of shredded cheddar and mozzarella. And when he wanted more, I brought him upstairs and showed him how to make them. In the oven.
So that following day, my kids made themselves a hot lunch in the oven.
And they remembered to turn the oven off when they were done.
I felt this wave of emotion wash over me. I was proud of them…and kind of proud of me, too.
I am – like, I suspect, many parents – often wondering if I’m “doing it right.” Am I teaching them what they need to know, am I raising good kids, hardworking kids, kids who will become good adults who can take care of themselves out there in the big wide world? Will they be okay?
And at the same time there’s a part of me that likes being needed. Mommy? Can you – tie my shoe, pour the cereal, make my sandwich, bring me to the playground, get me some water, give me a hug, kiss me goodnight?
I like being Mommy. But I know that it’s my job to raise them up so they don’t need me so much. The only time they were mine-all-mine was when they were in the womb. From the day they were born, it has been my job to hold them tightly and, finger by finger, hug by hug, to let them go.
Fortunately, it’s kind of a one step forward, two steps back kind of process. Much easier on me – and them.
So. The nachos.
I was proud of us. I taught them. They learned. They did.
I told them they could go play.
Another first day of school.
My boy is now a seventh grader. My daughter is a fifth grader.
They don’t need me to linger with them. They don’t need me, really, to walk with them, but I still walked part of the way with Alex and all the way with Julia.
I confess – it was unexpectedly hard to let Alex go off on his own. But I did it. I felt my eyes prickling, but I also felt good. He’s a capable kid. He’ll be fine. Or at least that’s what I told the other Mommy in my head who kind of wanted to drive him to the bus stop and wait there until the bus carried him away. I shut her off. She wasn’t helping.
I walked with Julia, we found out which teacher she had, and pretty soon she and her classmates marched into the building and I stood there in the school courtyard, surrounded by countless other parents and children, and I felt…alone.
So I walked home.
And I typed all this.