"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New England Cuisine

One of the things I miss the most since moving to Texas is not being able to walk into any restaurant (even one that allegedly specializes in seafood and/or ice cream) and order a "clam roll and a mocha frappe". Do that anywhere else but in New England and you're liable to be greeted with a blank stare from someone who has obviously never heard of two of the finest food items on the planet. Up here, the landscape is literally dotted with little walk-up clam shacks and dairy bars like this one:

We stopped at Tamaracks (shown above, in Weirs Beach, NH), a drive-up legendary for its fried clams and lobster rolls, and said by some to be the best in the land. It was pretty decent all right, but really, almost every little mom 'n pop shop makes a wicked good clam roll: start with a true New England-style hot dog bun with soft sides buttered and grilled to a toasty crisp, then pile on a mound of sweet fried clams cooked belly-in.

Another restaurant famous all over New England and beyond is the Clam Box, located
just up the road from my old home town of Hamilton, in Ipswich, Mass:

The Clam Box has the unique architectural distinction of being built to look like an actual box of clams the way you used to get them back when I was a kid. It's always been a favorite place of mine, although the price of a clam roll has gone way up from the $1.50 I recall back then, to nearly ten bucks today.

Walk-up ice cream stands can be found all over the place up here; nearly every town, no matter how small, has at least one or two. Most hand-make their own ice cream instead of buying the mass-produced machine-packed stuff you get anywhere else, and it's a traditional summer evening ritual to order your ice cream cone or sundae at the window, then eat it outdoors while watching the blue flashes from the bug-zapper for entertainment. For anyone unfamiliar with the word, a frappe is very similar to a milk shake, only made with real ice cream instead of blended soft-serve like you'd get at a DQ, Burger King, or Sonic. They're much richer, and come in a wider variety of flavors than your basic chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.

I'm thoroughly enjoying these treats I remember from my youth, although the flip side of this is that my transformation back to a New Englander seems to have already begun. I had a conversation with someone today in which I used the word "sure", and actually caught myself pronouncing it "shoo-ah". This could be a dangerous sign. If I'm not careful, any moment now I'll be wanting to pahk my cah in the Hahvahd Yahd.


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