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Maine Clambake

Maine Clambake

Courtesy of New York Public Library

Courtesy of New York Public Library

As part of our ongoing series on culinary traditions we turn today to WPA Sources on Maine. This is a clambake story archived in the Library of Congress as part of its America Eats collection in a Maine folder marked “Maine Writers’ Project.” We share the content in a paraphrased format when necessary to make them legible and we share illustrative direct quotes as often as possible. We will be sharing an original Harry Freeman documented story. He was a WPA writer covering the state of Maine. Today we take a look at the Maine Clambake tradition.

New Englanders have had a historic affinity for seafood due to their location along the North Atlantic Coast. Clambakes have been for New Englanders what barbecues have been for Southerners: a large event held during the summer that features slow cooked food and lots of it. The process begins on the seashore early in the morning collecting large rocks that the cook uses as the foundation of the makeshift oven used to cook the food. A pit is dug for the oven and the rocks are placed in it to form a flat pile. The cook makes a large wood fire inside of the rock oven which burns for several hours to thoroughly heat the rocks. While the rocks heat up, the cook and his or her assistants harvest clams and seaweed. They layer the hot rocks with seaweed creating a outdoor steamer on which clams whatever else the chef as planned to cook and then cover the food with another layer of seaweed and left to cook until ready. Popular foods cooked in the oven at  clambakes include mussels, lobsters, vegetables, and potatoes. When all the food is ready, everyone sits back and enjoy an authentic seashore clambake.

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