This weekend we went camping on the Hood Canal and made some friends with a father and son in the campsite next to ours. The father was big into clamming, and invited my twins to join him and his son for an afternoon of clamming. They enthusiastically agreed, had a great time digging for clams, and we took home a nice haul of clams.
When we got home, the kids clammored to build a meal around their catch. Aaron, Kennedy and I made a lovely meal of pasta and clams in a sauce of butter, wine and garlic. It looked and smelled terrific.
Kennedy set the table for dinner, but it looked a bit askew, with Tim’s place setting and chair too close to hers. I moved them back, straightening out the seats, so that everything looked as good as the food would taste.
We all sat down to the table with steaming bowls of angel hair pasta with clams swimming in garlic wine broth. I noticed with a tinge of annoyance that Tim’s chair and place setting was back next to Kennedy’s, but it was too late to correct the misalignment.
We commenced eating with no delays, but under cover of the slurping sounds of food being inhaled, I overheard Kennedy whisper to Tim.
“Daddy, are these the clam’s eyes?”
I looked up and saw Tim’s startled look. He recovered nicely. “Um, no, sweetie, clams don’t have eyes.”
“They look like eyes,” she said in a high whisper, and pointed with her fork to the two little black dots on the clam meat.
“That’s their necks, Kennedy,” Aaron said matter-of-factly, as he scooped a clam out of its shell and popped it in his mouth. “One neck they use to breathe and the other they use to spit out the sand.”
I laughed, hoping to lighten the tension. “How do you know that? Did you learn that in school?”
Both Aaron and Kennedy spoke at the same time, “No, on the Magic School Bus!”
“Wow, that’s a great show, isn’t it? You learn all kinds of things I never learned in school.”
I looked at Tim and cracked, “I guess that’s why they call them bi-valves. Sounds like the title of a bad movie: The Clam With Two Necks.”
Kennedy set down her fork. Her voice rang high and tight. “I’m scared, Daddy.”
“Oh, you don’t have to be afraid, little girl,” Tim said in his most reassuring voice, and I understoond now why the chair had been moved.
In a calm voice, I said, “That’s fine, Kennedy. You don’t have to eat the clams. Just eat the pasta and bread.”
In my own bowl, I made a show of neatly prising the clams out of their shells, tossing the empty clam shells with a flourish into the common bowl, and grating lots of parmesan cheese over the pasta and clams.
I smiled widely to show my daughter what a relaxing meal of bivalves should be like.
But we both ate our pasta and neither of us ate another clam.