Late one afternoon my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, got hankering for a few fried clams and sent me up to Doug’s Seafood in Thomaston.

Dougie, a Port Clyde boy who gave up fishing for cooking the product, sold his very successful restaurant in Bonita Springs and is now back here running his new restaurant. It is on a corner of the lot where the murderer Daniel Wilkinson was executed in 1885, so it could hardly be any handier.

Because we were only recently vaccinated, this is the first time we’ve dared to step out of the house for fried clams in over a year. Even then I wore my mask while ordering takeout, and we ate at our own dining room table.

Although not much of anything tastes good to me anymore, probably because a regimen of 20 cough drops a day burned out my taste buds, I had no trouble putting away a generous serving of fried clams and all the fries that came in two boxes. Even more remarkable was being able to sleep on it all night.

As we ate I thought how lucky we were to live on the coast where it is possible to get fresh seafood. I don’t know what I’d do if we lived way up in Lewiston.

Seventy-five or so years ago I was intimately familiar with the habitat of the Maine clam. Back then clams crowded together and were much closer to shore. Even a small boy could do very well digging among the rocks. I don’t remember the first time I went clamming, but I think I got $1.37 a hod for each of the two hods the first day I tried it. That’s really not much different from what a clam digger gets today, because all you have to do is move the decimal point over two places.

If you went clamming as a kid, from time to time you probably ate one raw. I once told my friend Julian that I used to swallow raw clams and he said, “Well, it’s really no worse than having a bad cold.”

For years you have heard me whine about the fact that, winter and summer, it is usually 15 degrees below average here on the coast of Maine. But I must admit that in recent days it has not been all that unpleasant here. The other morning it was so unusually warm that I put in a row of cherry belle radishes – a whole month earlier than I usually do. Plant any earlier when you’re less than 300 yards from salt water, and if a wistful little plant ever does come up, it cringes down against the cold ground as if to say, “What do you want me to do about it?” and doesn’t move another inch until July.

Unfortunately, contributing to the warm weather we are enjoying is probably the Gulf of Maine, which, for the past 15 years, has warmed at seven times the global average which is faster than 99 percent of the global ocean.

Susie Arnold, who studies the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on marine resources, tells me that invasive green crabs are finding the warming Gulf of Maine to be an excellent home. Ocean acidification, a result of carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean, has also resulted in more acidic mudflats, making the flats less hospitable to settling baby clams.

So what is a self-respecting clam to do if it wants to pass on its genes?

We hear that lobsters have moved offshore because they like colder water. In recent years some industrious lobstermen have built longer and wider boats so they could set their traps 50 miles offshore.

Will clams follow the lobsters? Will there come a day when divers in wetsuits will harvest clams like they do the wily scallop and strongylocentrotus droebachiensis?

If you think I looked up that double-jointed bit of Latin just to impress you with some unwarranted erudition, you are mistaken. In 1961, as a callow-faced student in Mr. Miller’s biology class at Gorham Normal School, I well remember the day our good professor held a green sea urchin in his hand high above his head and, with a big smile on his face said, “This is a strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. But you will still get credit if you write ‘green sea urchin’ on the exam.”

You can guess what I wrote on the exam paper. Thank you for giving me a chance to flaunt that esoteric and useless scrap of knowledge for the first time in 60 years.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:
www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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