When I was really little we spent our summers on Cape Cod. I was only three or four months old when I made my first pilgrimage to Buzzards’ Bay. My parents met there, courted there and my grandparents had houses less than a mile from each other. For weeks and later a month my sister Brenda and I lived a charmed life, close to sea, sand and doting grandparents. We celebrated summer with swimming, sailing, beach combing and family cookouts and clambakes. But all that fun didn’t keep us, at least once or twice during the summer, from uttering those three ugly words, “Mom, I’m bored.”
While the ocean is beautiful, ocean tides don’t always cooperate. We were often left stranded on the shore, desperately waiting for the tide to come in and provide enough water for a swim. During morning low tides my mother would respond to any complaints by kicking us, figuratively not literally, out the door. We were sent to visit our grandparents; leaving her in peace to make beds, fix lunch and shake sand out of beach towels.
First we wandered over to the Westland’s. My mother’s parents spent most of the summer in a small, white cottage. The cottage was pretty barebones and there would have been little to do at Nana and Grandpa Westland’s if not for our mother’s old doll house. The doll house was taller than a five year old and had seven rooms, electricity but no running water. It housed a family of mismatched dolls and was filled with little treasures. There was even a tiny Victrola to entertain the little family. Depending on the day, it captured our attention for minutes or hours.
When we got tired of the doll house we headed for the Nye’s. My dad’s parents lived on the Cape year round in a beautiful, little red house. My grandfather was a carpenter and he built a jewel when he built that house. An oversized window in the living room looked down the street onto Buzzard’s Bay, the walls were paneled with honey colored pine and braided rugs were scattered over wooden floors. There were roses in the front garden and a hammock in the back yard. Nana Nye baked lots of pies and cookies, so we would visit with her and help (or hinder) her in the kitchen until she sent us out into the yard to play.
Whether the tide was high or low we spent most afternoons at the beach. If the tide was low we were stuck on the sand anxiously waiting and watching as the water slowly dragged itself back up to the shore. We killed time looking for star fish and horseshoe crabs, building sand castles and digging clams. Children under a certain age did not need a clamming license so we were charged with the daily task of digging up at least six and preferably a dozen clams for our parent’s cocktail hour.
As much as we enjoyed the Cape, my grandparents’ neighborhood was changing. It was filling up with retirees and was quickly becoming frightfully dull for growing girls and our new little brother. New Hampshire beckoned. When I was ten we traded in Buzzards Bay for Pleasant Lake.
The tide was always high and New Hampshire offered both winter and summer fun. The lake was quick walk from our little house in the woods. King Ridge was perfect for family skiing and just ten minutes away. There were no clams to dig but my brother John found lots of frogs and tadpoles. There was enough sand to build elaborate forts and castles. There were trails nearby to hike and Mount Kearsarge a few miles down the road to climb. More important, there were kids of all ages, looking for fun and maybe just a little bit of innocent mischief.
Unfortunately, some things never change. Once or twice during the dog days of August, we still managed to pester our mother with those three words, “Mom, I’m bored.”
Summer is short. Enjoy it while you can! Bon appétit!
Nana Nye’s Prize Winning New England Fish Chowder
My Nana Nye once won a prize ($5 from the now defunct Boston Post Newspaper) for this delicious chowder. Enjoy!
1-2 ounces salt pork, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 pounds red skin potatoes, peeled, cut in small cubes
1 quart fish stock
1 quart chicken stock
2 – 2 1/2 pounds skinless haddock or cod fillets
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Fresh chives, minced
- Heat a 5-6 quart heavy pot over medium-low heat and add the salt pork. Cook until it has rendered a couple tablespoons of fat. Remove and discard the salt pork.
- Add the butter and onions to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
- Add the potatoes, thyme, bay leaf and stock. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are tender but still firm.
- While the potatoes are cooking, check the fish and remove any little bones. Add the fish the pot, season with salt and pepper and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes.
- Gently stir in the milk and cream. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hour to allow the flavors to develop and combine.
- To serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle the chowder into large soup plates or shallow bowls; sprinkle with parsley and chives.
The chowder is best made ahead through step 5 and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
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