Florida Clambake



To continue the August anniversary celebrations, Gary and I attended our friends’ Pat & Sally’s 10th anniversary party which consisted of a clambake in Cedar Key. Sally’s family is from the coast of Massachusetts, and for their wedding a decade ago, they had an epic clambake similar to the “bakes” she had with her family while growing up. Clambakes are a process: foraging for seaweed, building a mega-hot fire, and waiting for the food to steam all takes time. But the end process creates a mass amount of delicious food imbued with the smell of the earth (peaty seaweed) and taste of the water (clams) that makes for a delicious meal to share with loved ones.


Of course this being Florida, and not Massachusetts, some liberties had to be taken. But since I have never been to a true New England clambake, I didn’t know the difference.

To start this process, seaweed was gathered. Next, a hot fire was started over a bed of rocks. Up north, big rocks are apparently found all over the sea coast. Down here, however, they’re few and far between. Gary and I brought some for them from Lowe’s, but they weren’t large enough to soak up the heat. The rock base is suppose to act like a big brick oven–a big heat mass that holds its temperature long enough to cook and steam the goods. Next time, they’ll use bricks.


Three boxes with wire mesh bottoms were filled with deliciousness. The bottom box had the vegetables, which consisted of sweet potatoes, whole onions, and russet potatoes. The second box held cod wrapped in paper bags with a pat of butter, ears of corn with most of the husk left on, and sausages. The top box held the clams. The juices from one box dripped down to season the others. After all the boxes were stacked, seaweed was layered around it, and a thick cloth was put over them all. They then steamed for about an hour.


{Max, shown here, said his favorite food was clams.}

We piled all the smoked deliciousness in little bowls, and were given a ramekin of butter for dipping.

I think clambakes are like marriages. They take time and energy, but with a little tending, some good ingredients, and lots of love, the end result can create something wonderful.

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