In the kitchen, the stories burn hotter than the stove. This is what I’ve come to realize from reading a little more about Frida Kahlo. I went to the house that she shared with Diego Rivera and visited her kitchen. I learned so many of the stories that burned in there. The kitchen is colorful and warm with beautiful pre-Columbian dishes lining the counters and the wooden table. I even copied down the recipe for mole written on wall to the entrance of her kitchen. And thanks to a few comments from last week, I got a few really good books out of the library for this week’s trip back to Mexico City. What a great way to enrich the experience of just being here.
This recipe doesn’t come from that though. These clams and mussels come as a bubbling recreation of home after being transient. They come from the need to rebuild your table as it patiently awaits your return, both physically and emotionally. This meal is a calling to arms of all the pieces of myself that I’ve scattered with the people I’ve met in the city I’ve left. The call is to strengthen and bolster the largest chunk, which I serve forth to those who live with me daily. The ones who make me whole. The ones who find their home in me and who make me strong by being my home in return. How better to feel home than to lure the senses with sea water and wine.
Mussels and clams remind me of the ocean and the vastness of the world. The combination reminds me of my time spent stuffing clams and cleaning shrimp as a teenager after school as a fish monger. They also remind me of watching the men dig for clams in New England in one of my favorite author’s (John Updike) hometown of Ipswich, Massachusetts. There is just a feeling of home about it all. The wine (a splash for the pot, a splash for me) adds a sophisticated touch and pairs perfectly with the fennel and bright lemon. Very few ingredients go into simmering something so perfect. It’s the simple pleasures and quiet moments that are just as important as the groundbreaking ones. You can’t have one without the other. And you can’t help but feel connected to your world and the people with whom you share it when you’re eating a giant pot of warmth from the ocean. If you serve this with crusty bread, homemade pasta and roasted squash it will be just the welcome home you need to fortify you for burying yourself in your own space like a clam and in doing so feeling like you’ve opened yourself to possibilities as broad and vast as the ocean.
I hope you’re all doing well. Spring is right around the corner in these parts and it’s a lovely reprieve. It has me imagining the beach and one of my favorite days in a long, long time eating this under the ocean breeze. I cannot wait. Be well!
MUSSELS AND CLAMS IN WHITE WINE LEMON SAUCE
Inspired by Adventures in Cooking (such a beautiful blog, and this recipe made me not only remember and revisit my own recipe, but really want to plan a trip to the American northwest.)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
- 6 fresh whole clams
- 1 lb fresh whole mussels
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 fennel bulbs chopped into large chunks
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 handful fresh chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 handful fresh chopped chives
In a large pot or dutch oven whisk together the wine, water, lemon juice, and tomato paste over medium heat until the tomato paste has disintegrated into the liquid. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes until the clams and mussels pop open from heat and serve immediately. If any of them don’t open after the rest have, leave aside and don’t eat. Serve with crusty bread.