“Like to try one?” my father asked, pointing to the pile of ashey-grey shells in a white porcelain plate in front of him.
Our family rarely ate in restaurants, but this Saturday afternoon, Dad had whisked us all off in our new Ford Falcon from our apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan to that far off, exotic locale, Brooklyn. Our destination, the fishing village of Sheepshead Bay, or more precisely, the humongous Lundy’s Restaurant, seating 2400 at a clip, known for its 1930’s ambiance—white coated waiters with black ties, stained glass deco lanterns, 20 foot ceilings—its tiny flour-dusted rolls, and mainly its fresh seafood.
I’d never tried a steamed clam. I was eight. I was hungry, and the clams smelled like the sea.
My father showed me how you pulled the two halves of the shell apart with your fingers, lifted the clam out by it’s rubbery “neck,” peel the black membrane off the neck, then dipped the clam twice, first in broth, then in butter. He ate the first one. Then he handed me another.
I followed the ritual (open, peel, dip, dip) and then plopped it in my mouth. The buttery taste hit me first, then the chewiness, and finally the pleasantly briny taste of the clam itself.
At that moment, something changed in my perception of the world and my relation to it. In my mouth—my mouth!—was a whole being. The universe of food, hot dogs, hamburgers and a comfortingly small list of products that had no obvious connection to nature, had suddenly cracked wide open.
I wanted another. My younger brother and sister looked on in horror. They were “too young.”
“We’d better get him his own order,” said my father. Savoring the moment of his son’s awakening to the world’s mysteries, he grandly signaled for another plate.
I greedily worked my way through the whole order.
Life, I realized, was going to be an adventure.
–This article first appeared in AARP The Magazine