[The Kitchen Goddess must have been all worn out from writing at the time of the original posting, in which she forgot to include the potatoes in the directions. It’s now corrected. Sorry about that! –LSH]
I’ve spent the last four days on a “writing retreat” with my best friend, Joy, from high school. We lost touch for many years after graduation – we both left Texas, but she went west and I went east. But aside from a few minor details (she has one more marriage and three more degrees than I have), we’ve remained strikingly similar in our directions in life; and the fact that we both became writers still astonishes me, as neither of us had such inclinations as teenagers.
We go to a place called Port Aransas, a tiny fishing village at the north end of Mustang Island, off the Texas coast. It’s where we went to blow off steam in our teens, and aside from the movie theatre closing and a few decent restaurants finally appearing, not much there has changed. It’s still the sort of place where “dressing up” means a clean shirt and leather sandals instead of flip-flops. The sort of place where you can truly disconnect from the world at large.
It’s never clear how much work we actually achieve on these jaunts, which we’ve been making annually for the past 15 years. Sometimes we go for a week, sometimes our schedules allow no more than a few days. And some trips are more productive than others. Between mandatory visits to the souvenir shops, walks on the beach, and margaritas or wine at night, we have to really concentrate to get any writing done.
Another constant is Joy’s no-fuss clam chowder. Delicious and easy. Excellent even in warmer months, but particularly good right now. The beach was cold this year – so cold that more than one group of fellow beachcombers pronounced us brave [read “crazy”] for padding barefoot along in the shallow water. They were right.
Joy’s Beach Chowder
2 carrots, cut in 1/4-inch coins
2 celery ribs, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
2 small onions, cut into ½-inch dice
2 medium-sized potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 Tbl olive oil
2 small (6.5 oz) cans minced clams, drained and juice reserved
seasoning salt and lemon pepper, to taste
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
2 8-oz bottles clam juice
1 can condensed New England Clam Chowder
Saute onion, carrots, celery, and potatoes in olive oil, about 3 minutes. Add the two bottles of clam juice and the reserved juice from the minced clams, turn the heat down and let simmer another 5 minutes. By now the vegetables should be soft enough to stick a fork into. Season to taste with seasoning salt (or regular salt) and lemon pepper.