Friday, August 06, 2010
Bucket of steamahs
I had visions of great meals on a recent business trip to Boston. But I ended up with shitty crew meals on my film shoot, a not bad but in retrospect, average steak frites at Bistro Jo, way too expensive and not terribly well done modern Japanese at Uni in the Eliot Hotel, and a shrimp pasta dish at Legal Seafoods that featured a bed of pasta so poorly cooked that I ate only the shrimp and the lonely cherry tomatoes.
But I have this Proustian memory of the steamed clams with drawn butter that I had at the Amaro household some 40 years ago. The daughter of Portuguese-descendants, my friend the lovely Stephanie Amaro had married a jerk that I worked for. Circumstance dictated that we had dinner one evening at her parent's rambling house in Ipswich near the beach. The succulent, dug-from-the-sand-that-day Ipswich clams, steamed and served with melted butter have stuck with me lo these many years.
So I ordered them at Legal Seafood. And they were pretty good. Sitting at a small table, looking out at the indoor mall, the Hello Kitty cart, and the passing throngs of Japanese tourists and fat, fanny-packed pre-Red Sox game Bostonians wasn't quite the same as sitting around the Amaro's long, noisy, family dining-room table in Ipswich. But the clams, fatter than the delicate Ipswich clams I remember, were good--tasting of the sea with that faint sandy grittiness that means it's for real. The drawn butter, spiked with the lemon wedge that it came with, made it all work.
And Hello Kitty notwithstanding, I got a flash of that magic thing that food, like a song on the radio or a scent on the wind, can do. Which is to not only fill your belly but to transport you to another place. And another time.