The Great Chowder Debate

I've been thinking about Fourth of July the last few days, guess it's because it is coming up huh? So that means I have gotten to reminiscing about the old days here at the little house on the lake, and some of the Fourth of July cook-outs.

The first thing I remember was there was never a shortage of food. My Dad owned a grocery store so he would supply most of the meat which consisted of the finest hamburger this side of, well, anywhere. Back in those days beef didn't come in a box, everything was what we called hanging beef. I cut my teeth as a butcher on hanging beef, but that will be another "Good Ole Days" post. And we could always count on a bushel of fresh Maine clams. Back then fresh clams were probably less money than the hamburger which was pretty cheap. My father would pour corn meal on them and let them feed on that for a day, then haul them up here to the lake where he would soak them in the lake water the day before the Fourth, when it actually was celebrated on the Fourth, so that would make it the third. (What math skills)

He would steam some of them the night before and we, and the rest of the extended family who found their way up here would begin our feast. I still have the pot he would steam them in and I may even have the pan he used to melt the butter in. There would then be a clam shucking party, one would be eaten, one would go into the pot for chowder. The chowder was a two day affair to make. My father would start it on the night of the third, shucking and chopping clams, potatoes and onions. He would fry salt pork in the chowder pot, till it was nice and crispy, the pieces were then saved for the next day, well what was left after us kids would eat our fill.

The morning of the Fourth, the chowder would be put on the stove early and left to simmer for a bit, then the milk would be added. Usually about 11 AM it was time for the first bowl to be sampled. Then the rest of the clams would be steamed, the hamburgers cooked and whatever else we had would be served throughout the day.

Through the years my father would tweak his recipe. The first few years he would always listen to other peoples advice, add more of this, put this in it, etc. etc. everyone had their own ideas as to what would make it the better. Finally he stopped listening and made it his way, which was the best. Well unless you talked to my Aunt. She used the recipe which was my grandmothers. Her chowder was different from my fathers. She used much more clam juice, some would say too much, not as much cream and milk and would throw some cheese in it. Their place was and still is next door, and if she made a batch and my father made a batch, there was a constant parade of people back and forth trying each chowder. This always led to a debate on which chowder was the best, and which way was the better way to prepare it which, my family being one who will never let a good argument die, still goes on today, ten plus years since my father made his last batch.

I won't say which chowder won, all I'll say is my father made a larger batch and my fathers was the one which was always empty first.
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