Chowder than Love

When I am in a funk, there are two things sure to help: listening to Cotton Mather’s 1997 pop masterpiece Kon Tiki, and reading Jasper White’s 50 Chowders.

It’s not that I make chowder very often, but chowder is a reassuring idea. Whatever you’ve got, counsels the voice of Jasper, boil it up with some bacon, onions, and broth, add some cream, and things will turn out okay. I’ve made three chowders this year: clam, corn, and last night’s chowder, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Iris doesn’t seem to really register the emotion of disappointment yet, and I envy her this. Today, for example, we packed up our stuff, got on the bus, and went to the science museum. We have a membership, and Iris likes the butterflies and the robotic dinosaurs and scorpion. So we got over there and I realized that the museum is closed on Monday. I explained that the dinosaurs and butterflies were resting, and she totally bought this, and we went to the children’s museum instead.

Similarly, sometimes Iris will get very excited about eating something, and then she will end up not liking it. When this happens to me, it’s totally depressing. When it happens to Iris, not only does she not seem to mind, but sometimes she continues talking about it the next day.

Such was the case with clam chowder. I announced with much fanfare a couple of months ago that I was going to make clam chowder. I’d never bought or cooked a clam before, so this was part of the adventure. I went down to the market and bought some cherrystone clams—not very many of them, since they’re huge. (Doesn’t “cherrystone” sound small?) I brought them back and showed them to Iris, and then I steamed them open and we looked with awe and a little horror at the weird clam meat within, especially the green part that looks like frozen spinach and is presumably some sort of liver tissue. I liked the clam chowder a lot; it was especially briny and almost metallic because of the big clams. Iris didn’t think much of it. Then the other day when I asked her what kind of chowder we should make next, she said, “Clam!”

More recently, last Saturday I attempted to roast a duck. This was far from my first time cooking duck (I wrote an article about doing so for the Seattle Times), but it was my first time roasting a whole duck. It was not very successful, and there was a point where I was wrestling with a half-cooked duck on a too-small cutting board and spewing duck juices everywhere that is very funny in retrospect. Iris was talking about the roast duck all day, but she ended up eating about three bites while Laurie and I pecked at crispy bits on the legs.

For a while we’ve had this running joke where Iris or I will tack on “…and a lobster” to any list of things. I’m not sure who started it (it’s probably related to Lobster Magnet), but the basic idea is:

Me: When we get home, we’ll have some crackers, some oranges–

Iris: –and a lobster.

The joke pretty much ran its course, but then while we were talking about chowder, I said, “I could make lobster chowder…” Iris said, “Lobster chowder? IRIS EAT SOME.” So I’m sure she would be very excited if I did make lobster chowder, but she’s not very good at eating soup, and when I gave her some shrimp recently, she wasn’t so into it (title of guaranteed bestseller: She’s Just Not That Into Your Shrimp). Then again, maybe it’s the process of making lobster chowder or roast duck that interests her as much as the eating. In other words, maybe she’s a cook.

Tonight’s chowder, from 50 Chowders, was chanterelle and leek with a little curry powder, the chanterelles (purchased at the farmers market for $10/pound, which is a steal but still $10/pound) bulked up with some creminis. It was excellent, and it went great with some special crackers that I’ll tell you about tomorrow.