Authors from Shakespeare to Hemingway have sought to capture the essence of life’s most memorable meals. But no one but no one surpassed the culinary descriptions of Herman Melville.
In the opening chapters of his legendary whaling novel Moby-Dick, the main character Ishmael spends his final nights before setting sail aboard the Pequod downing bowls of chowder as he prepares for his long sea voyage.
For years he and his new friend Queequeg will be separated from news of the world, friends, and families “with nothing but the ruffled waves” ahead. The simple comforts of home and hearth that were once so unimportant all seem suddenly previous to him.
Perhaps it is the vastness of the sea ahead and the thought of the endlessly dull daily shipboard fare that prompted Melville to sing the praises of a final bowl of tavern-made clam chowder for four whole pages! Consider this short exuberant excerpt…
“Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazelnuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition.”
MOBY DICK CLAM CHOWDER
Serves 8 people
- 1 large Vidalia onions, diced
- 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into half-inch cubes 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 quarts Taylor clams
- 2 cups of linguica Portuguese sausage.
- 2 ears sweet corn.
- Dash of thyme
- Dash of cayenne
- Generous amount of ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- Whole milk
- Light cream
- Flour (Only if you want a thicker New England style broth)
- Oyster crackers
- Submerge clean Taylor clams in water and bring to a boil.
- Heat until clams open
- Turn off the heat.
- Take the clams from the water.
- Save the water.
- Remove the clams from the shells and put to the side.
- Boil the cubed potatoes in the reserved clam broth until half cooked.
- In a large pot, sauté the linguica in the butter and olive oil..
- Remove linguica sausage from pan when brown and crackly and put aside for later use.
- Cook the onions in the pan drippings from the pork until they are translucent.
- Drain off some (but not all) of the remaining flavored oil.
- Add onions, clams, and some of the pork cracklings, the corn, salt, pepper, cayenne to the pot.
- Add the stock and potatoes.
- Bring all the ingredients to a boil.
- Put the chowder into the fridge and let it sit for a few hours before serving.
- Heat the milk and cream in a separate pan.
- Reheat the stock and ladle into individual bowls.
- Add the milk/cream mixture as desired.
- Top off with pork cracklings and parsley.
- Serve with oyster crackers.