When we were honeymooning on Cape Cod at our friend Dana’s, her sister Franca made her famous Clam Chowder for us one night.  Franca’s chowder is the real thing.  She starts with local clams in the shell and spends the day in the kitchen.  The result is nothing short of spectacular.

We received a large container of the base to bring home with us.  The base merely needs cream and a check for seasoning to finish it off.  It has been sitting in the freezer awaiting the proper time to come forth.  Tonight was that time.

The Eilers clan prefers a thin chowder, and while I adored every drop we ate that night on The Cape, when I make chowder, I tend to thicken it a bit.  I understand this is sacrilege, but we’re 300 miles away.  They can’t get us tonight.

And the chowder was perfect.  Delicious.  Wonderful.  Thick or thin, this chowder rocks!  It has a rich clam flavor that you just can’t get from bottled clam juice or canned clams.  It really is stellar.

Just the dish to start off the first night of Hanukkah.  (ooops!)

Which reminds me of a story from a few years back…

When I worked at UCSF, one of my jobs was to answer the comments and suggestions from the “Suggestion Box” in the Moffitt Cafe.  I posted about 20 questions and my responses in a bulletin board by the Nutrition Services office down the hall from the cafe.   For the most part I ignored the %$#@# comments but I always included at least one snarky comment – and gave it a professionally-snarky response.  It was always fun to watch the crowds gather around the board and see their reaction to my latest epistles…

So one day I receive a comment from a woman who was incensed that we put salt pork in our New England Clam Chowder.  She went on at great length about how we were deceiving our Jewish customers who can’t eat pork and that we were pretty much condemning them to hell because of our insensitivity.  She was extremely rude to put it mildly.

I was just so sweet in my response.  I explained to her that salt pork or bacon was an integral ingredient in clam chowder dating back to the beginning of time.  It was used in the original Fannie Farmer cook book of 1896 and was a completely traditional ingredient.  Every recipe called for it and while it was true we did not have a huge sign stating it contained pork, we generally did not alert people to ingredients that were supposed to be in a dish.

I thanked her for caring so much for our Jewish customers that she would take us to task for including pork in our clam chowder.  I then informed her that in all probability having pork in a clam chowder probably wouldn’t be an issue to most Jews as they would most likely not be eating a soup make from shellfish in the first place.

It was the most fun job I have ever had.