Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Trauma of Cooking Clams

I was on a mission today. A mission to cook clams.

I don’t particularly like clams, but I dug them up and I was going to eat them, gosh darn it.

I started the process by googling [clams, recipes] and got a whole bunch that seemed simple enough. I settled on one that also told how to clean clams and involved white wine, butter and garlic.



I cleared my sink of dishes, scrubbed the clams with an old tooth brush, and set out all the ingredients I would need. That was about when things started going south.

I bought a bottle of white wine and broke my swiss army knife and nearly dislocated my wrist trying to get it open (I swear I’ve opened wine bottles before). I then proceeded to bang the bottle’s neck against the sink, half out of frustration and half hoping that it would break and my problem would be solved. I felt more like a college student then than I ever did in my four years of college.


My bottle before I broke my swiss army knife and tried to murder the bottle.

At this point the clams are sitting in the butter, spitting it at me and I’m trying not to think how uncomfortable it probably is for them. I finally break down, google [white wine, substitutes] on the internet and head out to the store for some apple juice, ginger ale or wine vinegar.

The Family Mart down the street (similar to 7/11) is my destination of choice. I know its too much to hope for to find ginger ale – Koreans love ginger but the brand for some reason never made it over here – so I start with the vinegar. It takes me about 10 minutes to figure out that the bottles I am looking at are in fact corn syrup and that Family mart doesn’t carry vinegar, at which point I move on to the drinks. They have lots of sugary drinks but I’m thinking this isn’t what I want. I was deliberating over my choice (sugary apple juice? Or maybe sprite?) when I notice wineaid. This is the fizzy, sugary concoction that tastes like a cross between wine and a soft drink. I feel stupid because I just could have bought this in the first place and saved myself the banging-the-wine-bottle-on-the-sink incident, but you live and learn.


I get it and head back to my apartment, where the clams are still spitting butter in disgust.

I will never be a vegetarian for extensive anthropological and philosophical reasons that I will not mention here because it would detract from my point. But as I was preparing the clams for cooking, I was battling myself every step of the way. I couldn’t get over the fact that they were living creatures I was about to steam alive. I don’t mind preparing meat to eat, but the idea of keeping an animal alive so I can kill it in a more horrible way doesn’t sit right with me.

That being said, I would have eaten the clams if someone else had prepared them for me, even knowing what went into the process, so the problem, here, I’ve decided, is that I’m squeamish.

And the process for cleaning and cooking clams (or at least my process) is long enough that I had plenty of time to look at my actions from every angle. If I could have claimed the high ground, that it’s morally wrong to eat meat, I would have. But I am staunchly against that viewpoint – even wrote an entire paper about it in college – and so I am left with nothing but my own cowardice as an excuse.

I kept on wondering how much an aquarium would cost at Lotte Mart, and where I would put it. And what I would do with the clams when I left for America. Eating them at that point would be barbaric. The more I thought about it, the more the situation reminded me of a Doonsbury cartoon I read. It was printed in the Sunday paper with a full color American flag on it. Since there are so many rules for how you are supposed to treat the flag, there was nothing you could do with it but keep it forever. You wouldn’t normally keep a newspaper clipping of an American flag for years, but once you read the comic, you couldn’t just throw it out.

That’s how I felt about the clams. At no point in my life would I ever think of getting a tank full of clams as pets, but after I have been put in this situation, I can see myself keeping those clams until I grow old and die.

In the end, I decided to stop being a wuss and cook the darn things. I threw in the ingredients, set the stove to medium, covered the whole thing and waited a couple minutes. When I removed the lid, they looked perfect.


The recipe calls for white wine, garlic, butter, clams and three to four minutes. For Emily Teacher? Wine aide, margarine, garlic powder, clams, about an hour, and a fresh can of guilt.


1 comment:

  1. Great story, Em! I never knew you were a conflicted carnivore!