April 16, 2024


Who introduced this deep fried New England specialty to life?

Fried clams from Woodman’s of Essex. Woodman’s of Essex

Fried clams are a New England specialty. They are often discovered throughout the area, in addition to in Massachusetts alone.

However how did the fried clam come to be? Who introduced this deep fried dish to life?

The invention of the fried clam is essentially credited to Woodman’s of Essex, a seafood restaurant on the North Shore that claims to have invented the fried clam in July 1916. 

It might not come as a shock. Readers have voted this native establishment probably the most iconic restaurant within the Boston space. And final yr, readers named it the No. 1 spot in Mass. to get fried clams.

Woodman’s began out as a concession stand on Primary Road in Essex, owned and operated by Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman and his spouse Bessie. They bought potato chips, grocery gadgets, and clams. At this stand on July 3, 1916, a fisherman by the title of Tarr jokingly instructed Chubby fry his clams like he did his chips so that they’d promote higher. 

“My grandpa, joking round with him, took an entire clam with a shell on it and threw it in. The factor exploded,” mentioned Steve Woodman, an proprietor of Woodman’s and grandson of Chubby and Bessie.

After they’d made jokes about it, Chubby and Bessie determined to attempt it out. They examined out completely different batters till that they had a winner. The couple debuted their fried clams at Essex’s Fourth of July parade the subsequent day.

The identical elements are nonetheless used at Woodman’s as we speak — contemporary clams, evaporated milk, corn flour, and lard.

The Woodman’s fried clam was vital as a result of it led to the dish changing into a staple throughout New England, even stretching to different elements of the U.S.

“Now, in case you take a look at all of New England, there are fried clam shacks all alongside the coast of New England,” Steve Woodman mentioned. “Maine, right down to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, they even go right down to Florida.”

Nonetheless, there are another claims to fried clam fame. An previous menu from Union Oyster Home, the oldest restaurant in Boston, lists Ipswich fried clams as an choice. The catch? This menu is from the 1850s, says Joseph Milano, president of Union Oyster Home. This implies the restaurant bought some model of a fried clam about 60 years earlier than Woodman’s got here on the scene.

The crown should go to Woodman’s, as Union Oyster Home would possibly’ve used a distinct recipe for his or her fried clams. A recipe from “The Nationwide Prepare dinner Ebook,” printed in 1856 by Hannah Mary Bouvier Peterson, describes a distinct recipe than the one Woodman’s got here up with later.

“Dry them in a serviette, season them with cayenne pepper and salt if obligatory, and fry them in butter,” Peterson wrote. “Or, they might be fried in egg and bread crumbs as oysters.”

Milano was uncertain of whether or not the clams listed on the 1850 menu had been deep fried or ready one other means. Union Oyster Home has fried clams on the menu as we speak, nevertheless they’re extra like Woodman’s, as “every thing as we speak is deep fried,” Milano mentioned.

Megan J. Elias, affiliate professor and director of gastronomy at Boston College, says Union Oyster Home possible used a distinct recipe than Woodman’s. That is possible as a consequence of the truth that electrical energy wasn’t generally utilized in kitchens till the Twenties.

“Most eating places, and even residence cooks, wouldn’t have been utilizing a lot electrical energy of their kitchens till the early twentieth century, however it was extra just like the Twenties,” Elias mentioned. “Having a giant pot of boiling oil, which is clearly what you want, it takes up plenty of gasoline, and in case you’re heating your range with coal or with chopped wooden, that stuff goes to be much more costly than electrical energy.”

Despite the fact that one can declare to have accomplished so, it is usually necessary to think about what determines whether or not or not somebody invented a meals. An necessary issue to think about is publicizing the meals. As a result of there’s all the time the likelihood that somebody made it and by no means informed anybody, it’s laborious to say for sure whether or not or not somebody invented a meals, Elias mentioned.

“Issues like fried clams, it’s rather more tough as a result of who is aware of? Perhaps any person did that at residence and by no means informed anyone,” she mentioned. 

Nonetheless, Steve Woodman says his household’s restaurant’s clams stand out from others as a result of the success of Woodman’s led to many different companies following go well with, creating its personal trade and leaving its mark on New England.

“You’ve got seafood distributorships beginning, you had salesmen going out and promoting the product,” he mentioned. “Eating places grew, so that you had folks working in eating places to serve the folks. It simply didn’t have an effect on us. It truly affected the entire area, to the place now it’s a giant enterprise for lots of people.”