A New Commodity: From Bait to Plate
O clam, how humble is thy state,
In mind, and form, and soul so low;
What thought on thee may we bestow,
And what of eminence relate?
To sustain a gourmand’s palate!
And all thy excellences sure,
Simply to please an epicure!
Can we of thee no more relate?
Clams were not always the desired delectable they have become. Colonists of early America ate clams only in times of desperation. In fact, they preferred to allow their pigs to forage on the mud flats. Though American Indians had been eating clams for thousands of years, colonists were more interested in selling salted clams as bait for use on fishing vessels. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, clams had begun a meteoric ascent to food stardom as part of a regional New England cuisine. The most significant developments behind this ascent include transportation, refrigeration, and leisure time for a growing middle class.
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