Open Letter to a True American Clam Fisherman

Dear Mr. LaVecchia,

In all my many travels around this magnificent planet, I have never been gripped by a pleasure more profound than a good clam. I have also never revealed this secret fetish to anyone before, but now I’m telling you. You must certainly be wondering why.

It all began last Wednesday afternoon during a visit with my grandmother, a woman of firm convictions and precise notions of quality. We were watching the episode of Bonanza in which an alcoholic traveling medicine salesman is on the run from his grim past as a surgeon in England. Oh, how we laughed! The role of the fugitive Professor Poppy was played by the incomparable Michael Rennie, who also played the space alien Klaatu in the 1951 science fiction classic, The Day The Earth Stood Still. Anyway, Hoss Cartwright became friends with Professor Poppy after buying a remedy for his sore foot, and, well, you can just imagine what happened next. I won’t spoil it for you.

Shortly after Bonanza came to a satisfying conclusion, it was time for my visit with Gammy to end as well. Now, there is a curious ritual she performs every time I’m about to leave her home, but it doesn’t involve candles and incense. No, sir. Just as I am about to walk out the door, she begins pulling food from her refrigerator and cupboard, and putting it into a paper grocery bag, which is within a plastic one. There is a call-and-response routine that we go through, wherein she recites the entire inventory of her kitchen from memory. After each item, I say either, “Okay, I guess I could use that,” or “Ehhh, I’m not really into that so much”, and it’s always the latter when she offers me ham. Half an hour later, the litany comes to a close and a second reinforced grocery bag has filled up with toilet paper, trash bags and aspirin.

Sometimes it is in receiving that we give.

On this occasion last week, just after I kissed her goodbye and was about to walk out the door a second time, Gammy grabbed my wrist with that eagle’s claw grip of hers and cooed sweet as Kool-Aid, “Wait, here, honey. I just remembered something.”

While the blood was returning to my hand, she pulled from her pantry a sturdy little red gift bag – the kind with the adorable rope handles knotted into the top – and thrust it in my direction. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “I want you to take these clams.”

And I did.

When I got home, I peered into the little party bag to find no fewer than eight cans of your Cape May chopped clams resting within. I’d never heard of the Cape May brand before, so I immediately began doing some research into your company. What I found at your website has kept me smiling for the last week. After reading about your family’s long tradition of hand shucked, sustainably harvested, wild Atlantic clams, I knew I was sitting on eight cans of America. I’m sure my readers will agree with that assessment when they visit your website. And I hope they’ll give you their business.

People just don’t care about clams like they did in the good old days, but the few of us who still do carry a torch for Nature’s underwater lunchboxes surely appreciate the level of quality and environmental stewardship your family packs into every can of Cape May products. I have enclosed a recipe for the Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce that I just finished eating prior to writing this emotional letter, and you are absolutely welcome to pass it along or publish it on your website with your other recipes.  Let me just say this: Your Cape May chopped clams are sensational. Because of you and your product, I’m not going to hide my love anymore. From this moment on, I am out of the clam closet.

You will notice that my recipe below calls for Cape May chopped clams. That was not a mistake. Your clams have changed the world of spaghetti. Thank you and your family for the many years of hand shucking in the Great Northeast USA. May the mighty sea god Neptune smile on your endeavors so that you will harvest eternal fortune from the briny blue Atlantic, and may he strike down your enemies with his salty, wet fist.

I seem to be,



Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce

1 lb cooked spaghetti (8 oz. dry)
2 6.5 oz cans Cape May chopped clams
3 oz diced bacon
½ an onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped oregano
6 oz canned tomato filets
1 fresh Roma tomato, diced
2 tbsp cold butter
olive oil

  1. Heat a wide skillet, pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
  2. Add bacon, onions, garlic and oregano. Saute until bacon browns.
  3. Drain clams. Deglaze skillet with clam juice. Reduce liquid by half.
  4. Add all tomatoes, simmer until fresh tomato has softened.
  5. Incorporate cold butter into the sauce. Add chopped clams.
  6. Pour sauce over pasta, stir and coat completely.

Serve with cracked pepper. Yields four reasonable portions, or two unreasonable portions.