Friday, May 2, 2014

Memories of a New England Meal

What is food?

Well, according to the wonderful world of Google Dictionary food can be defined as "any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth."  And under Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs food is contained within the first tier of five motivational needs that all humans need to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.  Without food we cannot "maintain life" and cannot climb past our physiological needs, which prevents us from ever achieving more profound goals of human life like feelings of safety, belonging, love, independence, meaning, and self-actualization.  

But, as humans, we are unique to the rest of the animal kingdom.  We create subconscious meaning and symbolism behind even our simplest tasks, and the processes of acquiring, consuming, and enjoying food are no exceptions.  To us, food is not just a substance necessary for life, it is an experience.  With food we can create memories that stir up warm feelings of home, family, community, and friends.  Most of my favorite memories revolve around preparing, eating, or socializing during a meal with people that I love and care about.  Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite meal is, without hesitation I always respond with
Clam Bakes!

For those of you that have never heard of a clam bake, get ready because your mind is about to be blown!  It is the perfect combination of land and sea, nutritious and fattening, civilized dining and straight up free-for-alls.  A clam bake is practically an all-day endeavor and usually the presence of one is enough to constitute a full-blown party...which is always fine with me... 

The morning of the clam bake always starts of relatively calm.  We eat some breakfast with close relatives...

and enjoy the scenery.

But things get underway quickly as the reinforcements arrive, with various forms of transportation.

The ingredients of a clam bake vary slightly, but all the ones I have attended include eggs...


and my favorite, lobsters!!!

Why do they even call it a "clam" bake? This is obviously the best part!
Everyone gathers around the fire pit as the head "cook" gives directions.  First goes on a layer of seaweed and then a damp sheet to protect the food from getting too much heat from the open fire.  

Then the lobsters are added.  Since the lobsters are still alive when placed over the fire, placement here is key.  Lobsters are pretty interesting creatures and what most people don't know is that lobsters swim/crawl backwards when fleeing in order to protect themselves with their large claws. Knowing this, we place the lobsters in a circle with their tails facing the middle so if they start to move, they will move towards the center and not fall off of the platform. Pretty cool, right?

Next comes the corn and a scattering of hotdogs...

for those picky eaters that don't like seafood.

The last step is to add eggs that will hard boil with all the steam and then top everything off with more seaweed and another wet sheet to keep in all the heat.

Then all that's left to do is wait...

In a hour or two (depending on the amount of lobsters) everything should be cooked to perfection. And boy is it a sight to see!
I mean, who wouldn't want a picture of these beauties? Just look at them! Try not to salivate on your screen too much...but I wouldn't blame you if you did!

Although delicious, to me clam bakes are about more than just the food.  As we all line up to fill our plates, we chat about the fun we've all had that day, congratulate the cooks, and all rejoice in a job well done.

Clam bakes in my family are usually held at some sort of celebration, like weddings or anniversaries, but  they could be considered a celebration in and of themselves.  They celebrate family and friends working together to create food, fun, and memories.

And with all that hard work, even the bystanders deserve to kick their feet up and watch the sunset at the end of this long, productive day.

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