How much do you wonder where your food comes from? In today’s world provenance and sustainability are key words and I think more and more people are asking these questions, and thinking more about their food.
On my trip to Atlantic Canada last month I was fortunate to get involved, and watch lobsters being pulled from their pots, foraged for fiddleheads and goose tongue greens, and dug clams. I was impressed and awed by the skill and passion people have for their chosen food that they gather, and the care and value they place upon quality and sustainability.
On a chilly late spring morning before breakfast we gathered on the causeway to Minister’s Island, near to the Rossmount Inn, New Brunswick to dig some clams.
It is a common joke that everything in North America is bigger than it is in Europe, and the clams were no exception. I’d been picturing the tiny thumbnail sized clams such as those used in a spaghetti vongole, but these clams were huge, several magnitudes of size larger, about the size of a medium oyster.
My guide was Larry, a veteran clam digger of many years experience. The clams live in the sand about 6″ below the surface, you dig then with what is effectively a short handled garden fork with the handle at a 90 degree angle. Push the fork into the sand, lift, then look for clams and gather the larger ones into a container.
Of course the professionals make it look easy. It is not. I had a go and found I could barely push the fork fully into the beach,let along lift the heavy wet sand, I think I dug 2 clams before shamefully giving up. It is physically hard back-breaking work, and I am full of respect for Larry and the other clam diggers who go out in all seasons, including the freezing cold of the winter when the temperature is -20C. An experienced digger in a patch with plentiful clams can earn around CAD250 over 3/4 hours.
Clams can be dug all the year round, but to conserve stocks the areas in which you are allow can dig do vary. Anyone can go and dig up to 100 clams, but to work commercially as a clam digger you need to have a license that you have to carry at all times when digging.
Standing just off the trans-Canadian, Highway 1, the sign for Ossie’s Lunch proudly proclaims “the Best Seafood in North America”, and is undoubtedly where some clams dug by Larry end up.
Family owned since 1957, with long serving staff, Ossie’s aims to offer the best seafood the bay of Fundy has. It is a low frills sort of place; queue up, order and eat from paper plates at the outdoor tables or, during the harsh winter, in your car.
The simple approach belies just how good the food is, of course we tried the clams, huge, meaty and rich, in a crunchy light salty batter, served atop a mound of chips with ketchup and ‘slaw (CAD17.95). Wonderful and all the better for being enjoyed outside. Portions are huge, but so good you will want to eat it all.
Situated in Bethel, just off Route 1 at exit 45 between St. George and the Saint Andrews exits.
Open every day 11am – 8pm. Cash only, but there is an ATM onsite.
Fuss Free Flavours visited Canada with The Canadian Tourism Commission & Tourism New Brunswick.
Clam digging is tough! In Brittany my husband goes with friends once in a while, it would be great if he could get 100 clams! I love reading about traditional food gathering, your article is so interesting. It’s good to hear the Canadians have similar restrictions to Europe, it would be sad if theses wonderful food sources disappeared.
It was such hard work. I was embarrassingly bad at it and caused great amusement.
This is fascinating. You might laugh but it reminds me of the West Mersea oyster flats in Essex.
I think one flat full of shellfish can be very like another! It was great fun.
Becs @ Lay the table
I would love to try fried clams, I bet I’d really like them! Looks like an incredible place – not all fancy, just great food :)
Really great food, and no need to be fancy. You do need to take yards of kitchen roll for greasy fingers!
I love clams, but not something I eat often. These look huge and delicious!
They were immensely huge Stuart! Not at all the size I was expecting
Wonderful! Of course Canadian clams are better than American ones too ;-) Not that I’m biased or anything!
Naturally – of course they are!