Clamping: Clamming and Camping

Protein: usually a good thing to have in your diet.  As I am not an avid sportswoman and haven't fished since I was a child, nor hunted since... um, ever... foraging for protein has never really been a primary focus for me.  I mean, I do still live in a major metropolitan area, with many grocery stores within a short jaunt from my work or home.  So for now, I typically leave the butchering to the professionals.

This past weekend, though, we actually did it - we foraged for protein!  In this case, clams!

Foraged protein!  Beautiful, beautiful protein.

Foraged protein!  Beautiful, beautiful protein.

We went out to the Olympic Peninsula with some friends to camp and see if we could find ourselves some bivalves.  These particular friends typically enjoy the great outdoors with "glamping" (that is, glamorous camping).  They bring all sorts of creature comforts along, which I really shouldn't complain about.  It was just a bit of a shock camping with them the first time as they pulled out full-size chairs, a dual-burner camp stove, and expensive bottles of wine.  Not a bad life, really, but certainly different from our camping hammock, jet boil, and boxed wine (bottles = weight, people).

We arrived at our campsite in the early afternoon, just before low tide.  Once we had our camp all set up, we hiked over to the beach where we had bought permits to dig for clams.  By this time, the tide was way out, and as we walked we started finding all kinds of great creatures: oysters laying about, sand dollars trying to dig back into the sand, and shore crabs galore. 

Our goal: 40 clams or 10 pounds. 

Our goal: 40 clams or 10 pounds. 

The hike to the beach at low tide.  We lucked out with some awesome weather, as you can probably tell.

The hike to the beach at low tide.  We lucked out with some awesome weather, as you can probably tell.

Eventually, we made it to an area with hundreds of little holes in the sand: this was our mark.  We started digging, hoping to find our allowed quantity of clams before the tide starting rolling back in.

Now, here's the thing: as it turns out, these areas are typically seeded with clams and oysters so that folks like us can come harvest them without severely damaging the natural ecosystem.  It soon became pretty clear just how heavily managed this area was: finding these clams was a little too easy.  In fact, I'm not sure it really reflected actual traditional practices of clamming at all.  We basically stuck the shovel into the sand, turned over the shovelful, and there would be a bunch of clams.  We'd pick those that were large enough to take, and bury the rest.  Embarrassingly easy, really.  Maybe next time we'll up the challenge a bit, but for that day, we were happy that we'd have enough clams for our chowdah back at the campsite.

Trying to decide where to clam... turns out we didn't have to think about it that hard.

Trying to decide where to clam... turns out we didn't have to think about it that hard.

Oh look!  Clams!  And more clams!  And ... oh, yeah, there's just clams literally everywhere.

Oh look!  Clams!  And more clams!  And ... oh, yeah, there's just clams literally everywhere.

After a bit of time spent doing this and exploring the beach, we headed back to our campsite for the next phase: murder.  Oops, I mean: cooking.  (These are the moments when the former vegetarian in me comes alive and I have to suppress it a bit).  We rinsed the sand off our catch and had a bit of a surprise: these babies were BEAUTIFUL.  I mean, good gracious, look at these shells:

We put the clams into some water and turned on the camp stove until they had all popped open, then de-shelled them and cut them into chowder-sized pieces.  

Boiled, de-shelled, and chopped up.

Boiled, de-shelled, and chopped up.

Meanwhile, my glamping friends started in on cooking up the sauces, following a recipe for clam chowder from a famous Seattle seafood restaurant called Ivar's.  I would include the recipe here, but honestly, I didn't have much to do with it, so I can't promise that we followed it exactly.  Suffice it to say, there are many chowder recipes out there, and I'll try some others in the future on my own to share with you all.

We paired the clam chowder with a salad that we had brought from home, made largely from the garden: spinach, lettuce, basil, purslane, and broccoli.  We also added some dried cherries that we made last week (more on this in a future post!), plus some store-bought cauliflower and tamari pumpkin seeds.  Add to that our famous homemade dressing (made with homemade mustard), plus a loaf of sourdough bread that the husband made, plus wine (from a bottle!), and VOILA!  This, my friends, is the very definition of "glamping."

Fresh-from-the-garden salad and clam chowder!

Fresh-from-the-garden salad and clam chowder!

Awww yeah, look at this FEAST!

Awww yeah, look at this FEAST!

Our campsite was right next to a river, so after eating our fill and feeling quite full, we retired to the glacial riverside, which was a perfect built-in cooler for our post-dinner rose wine.

Don't mind us, just clamping glamping.

Don't mind us, just clamping glamping.

Camping at its very finest.  So next time you and your loved ones are out camping, consider spicing it up: forage for foods to add to your dish, and if you're car camping, glamp it up a bit!