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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 20, 2020)
Photos by David Campiche
LEFT: Steamer clams ingredients, including clams and soba noodles. RIGHT: A traditional salmon bake on cedar staves aside an alder pot fire.
Continued from Page 18
Unlike the Lewis and Clark party that
followed a decade and a half later, the
Chinook gathered up nearly every known
creature, walking or swimming. In hand-
some woven baskets, they gathered many
of the natural plants: wapato, wild celery,
rhizomes, shoots, stems, roots, wild car-
rots, skunk cabbage, and—not to be for-
gotten—wild onion and the tender-peeled
stalks of devil’s club.
The supple stubs of alder were peeled
and chewed like gum. Dozens of plants
and herbs were used as healing medicines
and salves, like salal leaves and its berries.
Many varieties of wild berries were picked
too: cranberries, salmonberries, elderber-
ries, strawberries, blueberries, huckleber-
ries and the mealy salal berry.
Crab, clams and mussels were often
boiled along with succulent Willapa Bay
oysters, which can also be seared over a
campfire in their shells, then devoured
with their natural nectar. Not a drop of
brine was wasted.
Clam broth was drunk or transformed
into thin soups which could be enhanced
with natural vegetables and plants, delica-
cies such as fiddlehead ferns and nori kelp.
Foods were often prepared in handsome
reed baskets by first dropping red-hot
stones into salt water. Some foods were
steamed. Other foods, mostly meats, were
roasted over the open fires. Foods were
‘RAINY DAY PEOPLE DON’T HIDE LOVE INSIDE,
THEY JUST PASS IT ON.’
‘Rainy Day People’ by Gordon Lightfoot
also often staked and splayed in halves on
cedar staves, particularly Chinook salmon.
Other popular meats included eel, ven-
ison, bear, elk, steelhead, trout, sturgeon,
flounder, crab, halibut, ducks, geese, rab-
bits, grouse, seal and whale blubber.
Smelt was also favored. The fish’s oil,
called eulachon grease, was traded for a
thousand miles up and down the coastline.
The grease was a natural preservative.
The Corps of Discovery would have
been pleased to eat a steady diet of elk or
venison seven days a week. They nearly
did. Their skin turned the pallor of a slab
of hanging beef, like Rembrandt’s painting
of a butchered and hanging cow.
The rainy days hurled along. Heavy
wind cursed the boys in buckskins. The
soldiers dreamed of beef steak and kidney
pie. They ate salmon and steelhead only
when necessity demanded (starving times
at Dismal Nitch or Hungry Harbor).
You get the point. Eating a clam would
be much like forcing your 8-year-old to
swallow their most hated vegetable.
A modern dish
The southwest wind is blowing the
brittle boughs of cedar and spruce into
the yard in mounds. A wood fire burns on
the hearth. Rain drums the roof like the
base of Ray Brown’s quartet.
We prepare a simple meal of steamed
littleneck clams, homemade bread, and
salad of tomato and mozzarella cheese
with fresh basil. I choose what is a more
traditional summer salad because it
brightens up the winter offering and adds
freshness to the palate.
We slurp up the clam nectar like the
hungry soldiers of the Lewis and Clark
party when they were forced to share a
couple of rabbits between 32 men, and
Unlike us, the explorers refused to eat
clams. And from time to time, they com-
plained of their dining options. Not too
much of that is mentioned in the journals.
Well, there’s this: “It would be dis-
tressing to a feeling person to see our sit-
Clark is talking about a sou’wester
that bruised the corps for 13 days. Too
bad they didn’t know what they were
missing; that they didn’t confer with the
Ahead of them was a 2000-mile return
trip to St. Louis. Hungry, the rain contin-
ued to fall.
Steamed clams and
In a large cooking pot, add the little
neck or manilla clams, say two pounds,
Add a half-stick of butter, a half-glass
of white wine, fresh herbs like oregano,
fennel and parsley, and a few stems of
Then, steam the clams until they open.
A quarter teaspoon of hatch chili powder
or Cayenne adds a nice kick.
Save the broth to drink, or for a chow-
der or clam fettuccine the next day. The
nectar lays a base that is impossible to
beat. If you want an alternative, try pre-
paring your chowder with little neck
clams. Steam the clams open first, reserv-
ing, of course, the pungent broth.
The only real trick for a good caprese
salad is to reduce balsamic vinegar by
half. Pour the vinegar over the stacked
tomato, cheese and basil, and then drizzle
virgin olive oil over both.
Consider buying whole wheat or
9-grain bread. If you do choose a
baguette, garlic bread is a pleasant
option, as is cornbread. The bread should
be wrapped and oven-baked until warm.
Nothing will drink better than a Pinot
Gris with this meal. Unless maybe,
This is rainy day food at its best.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2020 // 19