I’ve mentioned before that I am currently working on a book that is totally different from my Florence Nightingale and Lady of Ashes series. It is what I would term “Women’s Fiction,” and takes place in my home state of Maryland, a state really rich in history, water activities, and seafood cuisine.
I decided I wanted to bring some of that cuisine to the novel, in the form of a waterman named Kip who owns a family seafood restaurant. And that’s all I’m saying about him for now!
To perform research on the seafood industry in Maryland, I recently went to my local Friends of the Library book sale.
I confess right here that “research” is just an excuse to go buy a bunch of books. Who’s with me on that one?
Among other books, including a cookbook devoted to crabs, I discovered this little 1964 gem—a pamphlet, really—put out by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service. In less than 20 pages, it describes for me how to catch clams, clean them, and prepare them. Where else but at a library used book sale could you find such a thing?
The pamphlet cost 30 cents in 1964. I paid $2 for it and consider it a good investment! I’m glad to have this information to use in the manuscript, as I do work very hard to be as accurate as I can be on any topic I explore in my books because YOU, dear reader, deserve it.
My treasure find at my local Friends of the Library book sale: “How to Cook Clams.” Not only does it describe how to buy and shuck clams, it offers more than two dozen methods of preparing them.
Molded Clam Salad, anyone?
Molded Clam Salad
2 7-ounce cans minced clams
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup clam liquor and water
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 drops Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pimiento
1 cup cooked peas
Drain clams and save liquor. Soften gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Heat liquor; add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Add next 7 ingredients. Chill until almost congealed. Fold in egg, pimiento, peas, and clams. Place in 1-quart mold; chill until firm. Unmold on salad greens. Serves 6.
Speaking of seafood, Maryland is home to the U.S. Oyster Festival, which occurs the third weekend of October each year at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds. This year marks the 53rd annual festival. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lexington Park, it features entertainment, various vendors, and, of course, oyster-based food. You would be amazed at the number of dishes to be made from the humble oyster.
The centerpiece of the festival, though, is the National Oyster Shucking Competition.
It is exactly what it sounds like: men and women in separate competitions to see who can shuck (open) 24 oysters in the least amount of time. The winners of the shucking competition go on to compete in the International Oyster & Seafood Festival in Galway, Ireland. That event is sponsored by Guinness Beer.
However, in my opinion the oddest thing at the Oyster Festival is what is known as an Oyster Shooter.
Served in a shot glass, it contains the following layers:
- One plump oyster.
- Topped with a dollop of cocktail sauce.
- Finished off with a splash of beer (I guess Guinness would be the preferred brand!).
You then dump it in your mouth in a single hit, blending it all together as you chew and swallow.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems like three things that do not belong all together. However, oyster shooters are very popular at the festival.
So, tell me, dear readers:
- What has been the best find you’ve ever gotten at a book sale?
- Have you ever had an oyster shooter? If so, what did you think?
Would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
Well, I’m off to writing again. I’ll leave you with a bit of brief commentary on seafood from Felix.
“Human, I *Iove* clams, crabs and oysters! You got some? Put ’em right here on my plate.” –Felix