New York Public Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Where are clambakes coming from?

The clambake is really older than America itself. Native American tribes of Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut cooked clams and lobsters in sand pits as methods of subsistence as far back as 2000 years ago.
These tribes did not have massive food preparation pots, so they utilized soil as their cooking tool. Before Bar Harbor was known as Bar Harbor, the Wabanaki people gathered clams, as well as various other shellfish in this part of Mount Desert Island. They described the area as Ah-bays’ auk (“clambake location”), leaving big stacks of shells as evidence of the method.

The first Forefathers Day

According to historical lore, the typical clambake approach was handed down to the Pilgrims when they observed Native Americans creating these ocean-side feasts.
While the Pilgrims did consume clams as they may have seen Native Americans’ clam-baking, they never ever straight referenced the food preparation method in their records.
“Actually, clam-baking was most likely adapted as a social method by New Englanders in the late 1700s out of a desire to develop a one-of-a-kind ‘American’ identity and traditions which were not linked to our European past.
The very first ‘Forefathers’ Day, produced by the Old Nest Club in Plymouth in 1769 with the aim of memorializing the Pilgrim’s arrival in America, developed clam-eating in a symbolic context.
Amongst the dishes at the very first Predecessor’s Day supper, which included oysters, succotash, Indian whortleberry dessert, and apple pie, clams were served.
In subsequent years, Forefather’s Day was even described as ‘The Banquet of Shells.’

Becoming a tradition

By the end of the 19th century, the clambake had become an authentic sign of American tradition, together with Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and apple pie.
During the Gilded Age, when Americans were as stressed with ‘credibility’ as we are today and also when ‘purposeful’ leisure time became socially acceptable, clambakes offered a decent and also stylish means of investing one’s spare time. They became a common part of political events and even appeared in art and also literary works as a ‘sign of shelter from a globe gone awry.’

For more details on just how to eat a clambake, click here.

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