by Rob Haley
The message was clear when we sat down at the long table protected by sheets of brown paper tablecloth – this meal was going to get messy. On Thursday, January 31st, Boston University’s Gastronomy Student Association (GSA) marked the beginning of a new semester by visiting Jasper White’s Summer Shack in downtown Boston. Our mission was to take part in their version of the traditional New England clambake. For those born and raised in the region the menu seemed familiar, but for many this was a chance to experience for the first time one of the Commonwealth’s most revered gastronomic celebrations. While the restaurant interior could not entirely replicate the experience of an ocean beach bake during the dog days of summer, the food that was shared by the fifteen students in attendance did not disappoint.
The dinner began with a couple pitchers of PBR along with two bottles of white wine, followed quickly by a choice between Bermuda Fish and Crab Chowder or the Boston Clam Chowder. Lobster crackers and bibs were handed out to the party: a sure sign that we would have to earn this evening’s meal. As soon as the soup bowls were cleared, platters of steamed lobsters and snow crab legs drew the attention of our hungry crowd. This was accompanied by the obligatory corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, and cole slaw. Corn bread was delivered to take up the few empty spots on an already crowded table, and we were left to fill our own plates with the generous feast.
Seasoned veterans were quick to demonstrate to the rookies the process of cracking crustacean shells to ensure the maximum yield of sweet morsels locked inside. Technique is truly an art form when holstering the cracker, and the willingness to dive right in with both hands is also essential with a lobster bake. Arms, legs, tails, and torso were twisted and torn with large chunks of salt-steamed meat as the reward. Forks and picks were used like a mad surgeon’s tool to ensure no scrap was wasted. Empty shells piled up in the large community waste buckets, and everyone was satisfied with the work they had done to claim their undersea cuisine.
By the end of the meal, with serving plates empty and stomachs full, the GSA celebrated another successful group outing. The gathering also marked the passing of the torch, as recent MLA Gastronomy graduate Natalie Shmulik turned her GSA Presidency over to Elizabeth Bada, a current Gastronomy student. Appropriately initiated, Liz will no doubt lead the association towards more great events and nights such as this during the 2013 school year. With a bit of luck, this may just include a summer seaside clambake somewhere along the Massachusetts coastline.
Rob Haley is in his last semester (hopefully) pursuing his MLA in Gastronomy. He is also the Senior Media Producer at the Office of Distance Education at Boston University. He can be reached at email@example.com, or you might find him at your favorite neighborhood watering hole.