Monday, July 25, 2011

The husband, the chowder, and the Great White Shadow

Yesterday, the husband and I were enjoying a lazy Sunday morning, each reading a guilty pleasure (me, In Style, him, Esquire), when he said,"Clam chowder, doesn't that sound good?"

"Mm hm," I murmured, not really listening. I was busy reading about the fall trends. Color blocking! Side braids! Peep-toe booties!

"This one isn't really a New England or a Manhattan version," he continued. "No cream or tomatoes."

"Oh yeah?" I said, half listening now. Was he talking about types of clam chowder?

I almost fell out of my chair when he began listing off ingredients. That's what I do when I'm considering making something. "Littleneck clams, bacon, smoked paprika, fingerling potatoes..."

I put down my magazine. "What exactly are you saying?" I asked him in a neutral voice.

"I want to make clam chowder," he replied evenly. "Will you help me?"

It is very rare that the husband does any cooking. It's not that he can't--the man can fry an egg and make perfect French toast. He also turns out an excellent amatriciana sauce. But generally, the kitchen is my thing. However, I do like the idea of him cooking now and then. So we shopped together, chopped together, crisped the bacon, checked the clams, fried the potatoes. It was a slightly strange recipe (remember the provenance was Esquire) but we rolled with it.

As the soup simmered away, we doted on Sophie. She's very beautiful--except for her dark golden face and ears, she is extremely light, giving her a rather dramatic look.  Because of her coloring, she gets all sorts of nicknames involving the word "white," depending on what's going on in the house. For example, if we're sitting around talking about, oh say, the time we went to Hawaii and spotted some dolphins, one of us might glance over at Soph and say casually, "Hey, White Dolphin." Or, if she's snuck up behind us, which she does sometimes --she's rather stealthy--we may say, "Hey, White Shadow."

Last night, while the clams steamed, it was, "Hey, White Clam."

Over your pet's life, you end up calling them all sorts of nicknames, but only a few of them stick. Frances had a lot of names over 15 years but the one that survived was Baby Dude. This was because in one apartment we lived in, she would put her paws on a chair at the front window, stick out her burly chest, and yell at passers-by, mostly those of the canine variety. We started calling her Little Brown Dude, on account of her toughness and her chocolate coat. But then after some angry shouting, she would go back to being a floppy, happy puppy--a total baby. So, Baby Dude was born.

We don't know yet what will stick for Soph. Right now she's just Soph. You can't rush these things. Although, I think the White Shadow has staying power. It sounds wise and benevolent, which fits her, with a noirish undertone, a reminder of her earlier life, which apparently was rather gritty, spent jumping six-foot fences, living on the streets, and being a teen mom. The dog has had a life in just two short years.

Anyway, back to the clam chowder. It turned out fairly well although we agreed that next time we would add either tomatoes or cream--these things do improve a chowder. The recipe was a good start, but I'm not going to post it here--it needs too many revisions. Stay tuned. I think a rendition with spicy sausage and tomatoes is coming shortly down the pike.

And that is the story of the husband, the chowder, and the Great White Shadow.


  1. Amen!
    What a nice story. Your picture is fantastic, and the chowder looks really good to me, even without cream or tomatoes. I think, historically, it was made with just water. And onions and stuff, of course.
    I'm so happy for Sophie.

  2. Sophie IS very light in color and really a gorgeous dog. Lucky her to have you two. (and vice versa)
    The clam chowder is interesting....I like mine with some cream, but the base is similar. Will be interested to see what you come up with.

  3. cookie: aw thanks.

    Barbara: I'm very interested in tweaking this one and will post about the new version soon...

  4. Lucky you to have such an enthusiastic cook :) The hubby will just have to help on the revised version too, yes? And Sophie is so gorgeous, glad you are enjoying each other.

  5. Love this story. And its so true about the multiple nicknames for dogs, I've gone as far as giving mine the middle name "Beatrice," ha.

  6. I know what you mean...sometimes sammy b wants to cook, and I have to feign support. But I think he would agree that I'm not as much of a kitchen tyrant as I used to be. BTW, chowdah looks good! If you throw in some chorizo and milk, you will have a Little Rhody-style soup, I believe.

  7. we need to meet sophie in person. great photo. of the bog :) clam chowder looks good too. you ready InStyle? :)

  8. shaz: yes, the huz definitely wants to help with round 2!

    Connie: Love that your pup has a middle name. And why shouldn't she?

    Jary: Well it's definitely nice when SB mans the grill--he's certainly good at that!

    ALY: Yes! You do need to meet her. Of course I read/subscribe to InStyle. Elle, too...I'm a magazine junkie.

  9. As always, I am smiling reading your post.

    I have a dachshund named Tac (short for attack or Tan and black). She has a zillion names too.

    A Sunday together in the kitchen is awesome.


  10. Velva: Tac! I love it, what a cute name.

  11. aw, what a sweet frances story. i'll bet it won't be long before you strike upon the perfect nickname for sophie too. :)
    great chowdah, by the way--very unique!

  12. I can only think of cheesy nicknames for Sophie (the White Wonderful, White Wiggler) because she's so stinking cute. I really loved her ability to flop at the first hint of a pet/belly rub. Have fun finding the perfect fit :)

  13. grace: was definitely unique!

    ash: Aw, thanks. She loved meeting you!

  14. White shadow sounds like such a sweet girl. Just arrived in NJ. Re. chowder--cream next time, because how bad can that be?

  15. Claire: Wish you could have met her before you moved :( Glad you made it to NJ, maybe we can catch up soon?

  16. Sounds like a perfect Sunday! And I can't wait for your tweaked chowder recipe. Now I'm thinking both cream AND tomatoes, together, could be great in a chowder.

    Love pet nicknames. And siblings, for that matter. I remember when my sister was born, my brother and I had a page of nicknames for her - zaza, pickle, bigodi (don't even ask me where that one came from). Fortunately for her, the name that ultimately stuck was her given one. :)

  17. camille: Good idea, why not both cream *and* tomatoes? Live large, right? And, love the sib nicknames. that even a word?

  18. Yeah, I agree I've never really found a great recipe in Esquire. Must need doctoring. Although your photo looked really intriguing. The ingredients were all my favorite and really made for a colorful chowder. And I love your storytelling of how you nickname your dog. I want a dog just so I can give it a nickname! ;-)

  19. Ben: You should definitely get a dog--they are so much fun!