The Largest Clams

They are going to need a bigger boat if it gets any more popular

    One thing is clear about the East Hampton Town Trustees’ Largest Clam Contest: They are going to need a bigger boat if it gets any more popular. Well, at least a larger place to hold the thing.

    Sunday was the day of judgment, the moment in which the largest single Mercenaria mercenaria, or quahog, of the year would be crowned at the trustees’ office on Bluff Road in Amagansett. And while the biggest bivalve might well have been an attraction, the raw bar drew the longest queue. Had I noticed an unused clam knife, I might have jumped in to lend a hand; it was good that there was not, however, as I spent most of the time chasing our 3-year-old, Ellis, around the crowd.

    Ellis and a house guest and I had done a little last-minute clamming the previous afternoon. It had been a warm day with almost-still air. We did very well.

    Ellis, still too small to work a clam rake, found a live quahog exposed and on its side in the water. He picked it up and added it to our basket. On Sunday, we rushed to get to the contest early enough to enter it (or at least the one we thought it was) and another that I had dug. He was disappointed that he didn’t win, having up to that point only been at events where everybody is a winner. Mine never stood a chance, either. The top clams were hulking behemoths bigger than two of my fists placed together.

    If the raw bar and Fred Overton’s clam chowder kept the adults busy, the draw for the younger set was a display of live bug scallops in the trustees’ meeting room. Ellis and his sister Evvy and a scrum of other kids packed tight around the tank, scooping them up and peering close to see their pearly blue eyes.

    Evvy was disappointed that her guess of 400 tiny clams in a beaker at the town shellfish hatchery’s table was incorrect. There were more than 500. But she was consoled by a bright-orange “wanted” T-shirt with an image on it of a big quahog.

    As for me, the memory of the day was reward enough. That and the half bushel of clams in the refrigerator, several nights’ dinners a-promising.