Clamming In Bodega Bay
Geez! Is it really 2:45 a.m.? Am I crazy? I think a minute. No, I’m not. I really want to go clamming.
The day began at this ungodly hour. Picked up Christine and we headed to Bodega Bay to meet forager extraodinare Hank Shaw and nine other people to learn the art of clamming.
There’s something mystical about driving to the coast in the middle of the night on a full moon. There’s also a lot to be said for having a driving companion while doing so. I needed that second set of eyes, especially in a few spots where the fog was as dense as an over whipped meringue.
We met up with our group just past the Spud Point Marina. There were yawns, stretches and introductions before pulling on the mud boots and putting on an extra layer of just-in-case clothing. Buckets and shovels in hand, we trudged out through the muddy clam flat just before sunrise. The tide was -1.5, meaning areas of sand normal under water were exposed.
We were searching for horseneck clams, which I learned aren’t the tastiest variety but still worthy.
We began looking for holes in the sand, clues to where the bivalve mollusks were lurking. Having never clammed before, the first few attempts were feeble. And we quickly determined a better approach to digging was essential. It’s not easy digging up wet, muddy sand. Some of the holes start to fill up with water faster than you can dig making it that much harder.
Watching and getting a few tips helped. Christine spotted a live hole, we mapped out our dig and like hungry animals presented with food, dove in. A foot and a half deep, the shovel drops and you’re on your knees digging with your hands. I felt the clam, grabbed a hold and tried to pry it out of the sand. It’s kind of like a game of cat and mouse.
The shells aren’t as strong as I thought they’d be- I broke the first one, which kills the clam but you can still take it. Success with the second one, no breakage. We took turns digging and were hooked. It’s catchy. Once you get that first clam, the excitement draws you in.
Almost three hours later we heard Hank announce it was time to head back. We’d had our heads down not noticing the tide slowly coming in.
Congregating around the back of Hank’s truck, we got a lesson on how to process this clam. Their long necks, 6 to 8+ inches, are covered by a tough, leathery-like, brownish skin. The meat inside the neck is the best part and can be eaten as sashimi. The rest of it is good for chowder.
After getting home, handling the live clams and processing those with broken shells (unfortunately half of ours), I didn’t have the energy to cook. The freezer is a great friend sometimes. I cringe as I share I processed the live clams the next day but froze them too. I’m thinking Manhattan clam chowder and a pasta with clam dish is in my future. This adventure was an absolute riot and I can’t wait to go again. And next time I’ll get a close up picture of a horseneck!