It was mid-afternoon; the sweltering sun made Three Mile’s shallow green waters iridescent, creating twinkles so tremendous it seemed as though the harbor was filled with never-ending streaks of stars. The car slowed to a stop as the already fractured shells splintered into smaller morsels beneath our tires. I got out of the car, my nose immediately overwhelmed with the fumes of exhaust amalgamating with the salty harbor scent. The sound of the engine died down, allowing for the gentle lapping of the miniature waves against the concrete ramp to become the dominant sound. The rocky shore was empty, strangely so, except for the aggressive horseflies and mosquitoes that so viciously attacked any passerby.
We maneuvered past the thick army of flying things along the shore, and carefully entered the harbor’s inviting waters, with the rake and makeshift bucket dragging behind us. Those first few steps were taken with extreme caution, for the texture of the harbor floor was identical to that of the shore – jagged and lined with unknown objects.
Once thirty yards off of the beach, I tied the bucket to my wrist and dug my feet into the sand while my dad raked the bottom of the sea floor. The idea was simple: dig until you felt a lump, take that lump out of the water, inspect it, and shift to a different spot. However, only a quarter of the time was that lump a clam. If big enough, we would place the clam in the makeshift bucket. If the lump was a rock, we would hurl it as far as humanly possible back into the water, making a loud “plunk” as the weathered surface made contact with the somewhat choppy water. Though finding clams was not particularly rare, finding a clam that was of legal size was. On a good day, we would harvest two dozen or so clams that were big enough to take home.
As the tally of “plunk”s increased, the sun started to sink lower and lower into the horizon. The bucket was almost halfway full, meaning no more than fifteen average-sized clams occupied it. Before leaving for Three Mile, my mother had said, “If you don’t get more than two dozen clams, you don’t get dinner”, as she did every time we set out to go clamming. Though she spoke these words jokingly, I knew from past experiences that she wasn’t kidding. She needed at least two dozen meaty clams in order to make her delectable “Long Island Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce” dish. If we failed to meet the quota, it would result in no dinner for my dad and me. Keeping this in mind, I willed for more successful digging, as my stomach was rumbling louder than the steady sound of the small waves breaking on shore.
By this time, the sun was barely visible on the water’s edge. We scrambled quickly to find our mother this precious catch, with the taste of her dish on the tip of our tongues. We shuffled to different places in attempt to find a “lucky spot”, and dug faster and harder than we did earlier in the day. I was digging awfully close to a mooring buoy, with a medium-sized boat pointed towards me. We had maybe ten more minutes of daylight before the sun would abandon us. I kept digging, and digging hard.
Suddenly, there was a large cluster of lumps that felt like clams, but I couldn’t be quite sure. I viciously pulled one out of the water, hoping and praying that the lump was anything but a rock. I glanced at the lump, and smiled goofily.
The sun was completely set now, and the darkness of the night engulfed the eastern tip of Long Island. We approached the house, with my mother anxiously waiting at the door. We got out of the car and, with the heavy bucket, walked up to the porch. My mother didn’t need to count the catch, she knew – the smiles on our faces gave it away, and she smiled too.
Long Island Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce:
½ cup Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves, smashed
1 cup White Wine (Long Island’s is best)
2 dozen Long Island Cherrystone Clams
1 box Thin Spaghetti
Hot Pepper Flakes (to taste)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
¼ cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Boil thin spaghetti for about 7 minutes, set aside. Sauté crushed garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Remove garlic, set aside. Add white wine to olive oil and garlic mix, let simmer. Add salt and pepper to olive oil and garlic mix. Add Long Island Cherrystone Clams to mix, cook until clams open. Once thin spaghetti is cooked, add the white wine clam sauce to pasta and stir. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Best if served when hot. Enjoy.