It was cold and completely dark. Though only six o’clock, the short December day had passed without any success. We sat defeated at our campsite, clutching cans of Olympia between fingerless gloves, contemplating the coming meal of two clams among four people. Not enough.
‘I’m going back out,’ Jason said bravely.
‘Me too!’ The Husband piped up.
Damn. I guessed that meant Elise and I would have to go as well. Unfortunately, I had already changed out of my wet, sandy jeans, which would be torture to get back into. But I sucked it up, grabbed a flashlight, and followed my friends back out onto the beach.
Somehow in the daylight, we had never gotten the hang of it. Hundreds of other people had been trawling around on the beach, eyes glued to the sand, tapping the backs of their shovels on the ground. They would stop periodically and dig, then calmly place their catch into a bucket or a bag tied around their waists.
Here is what we had done: one of us would get a feeling about a particular spot, then throw ourselves at it full-force. We’d hack at the sand with a garden shovel as quickly as possible, screaming with the effort of it all until the hole was as deep as it could get. Tossing our shovels aside, we’d plunge an arm shoulder deep into the freezing hole, digging frantically with our hands until we finally had to face the fact that if anything ever had been in that hole, it was long gone by now.
During the night-time round of digging, we had more success. Perhaps the Olympia mellowed us out a bit, or maybe the tips from our campsite neighbors had finally sunk in. Either way, the screams of frustration gave way to squeals of delight as each of us plucked clam after clam from the holes we dug. OK, so I only got one and then decided my efforts were much better spent as clam-bucket-holder, but whatever. The important point is, we had too many clams to eat in one sitting.
We struggled to clean each one on the camp picnic table. Using sharp paring knives, we set about cutting the clams out of their shells, and removing the guts and other ugly bits before dunking them in cold water to wash as much sand off as possible. By then we were regretting our bounty, wishing we’d stopped at two when we still had the chance. Finally, once we had finished with all million of them, our neighbors showed us the much simpler way of dropping each clam into boiling water for a few seconds until it shrugged out of its shell like taking off a jacket. Easy.
Thai red curry with Pacific razor clams
For dinner, we sauteed mushrooms, spring onions, garlic, red and green peppers, and pak choy, and then added red thai curry paste, coconut milk, a little sugar, and a generous squeeze of fish sauce. Once it had all cooked down, we threw in the clams for a final two minutes’ cooking, and added some fresh basil and lime juice.
Fried Pacific razor clams
The next morning we still had plenty of clams left. We dipped them in an egg wash and then a mixture of crushed saltines, chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and then fried them in olive oil until crispy and golden. In the name of greasy goodness, we also fried up some hash browns. We built a fire and ate our breakfast on the beach, washing it down with a little more Olympia, and watching the sun reflect off of the water.