Holy Carp!


Asian Carp plays Pomp & Circumstance. Photo by Ted Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Regardless of what college or university claimed you after high school – proof of study was found in the “Freshman 15” pounds of excess ballast packed on during that first year away from Mom’s home cooking. The lure of unlimited helpings, highly salted carbs “on demand” coupled with bottomless mugs of “adult beverages” trump any resolve maintain a healthy diet. I fondly remember how Coney Dogs sloshed around my gut. These boiled hotdogs were smothered in chili, mustard, onions and pickles nestled within a steamy bun – 3 for a buck – and inhaled after frat parties. This was being real adults, “to eat whenever we want”, I’d slur to my friends – who wondered why they had a wicked headache and were a dollar short the next day.


Super-Sized Lunch for Mizzou Courtesy US Geological Survey

Boaters on the Mississippi River despise invasive, ugly, nasty Asian carp that launch unexpectedly high out of the water and crash on deck in a mess of slime and bloody guts. Carp are disruptive, annoying and in most people’s opinions – tasteless. Asian carp are like college freshman – they are voracious eaters with minimal sense of dining etiquette. Upper classmen avoid them unless they are saturated with “too much too too” at which point they are fair game for things you never write home about.

Like carp, freshmen leave little behind except a messy, undernourished environment. Saturated with copious amounts of booze over time, college students ineptly face the stress of incomplete assignments, the subsequent threat of flunking out and fear having to move back home. These moments of rational thought heighten freshmen’s anxiety and slam their hunger into hyper drive. Stressed students eat a lot of just about anything – including, the newest addition to dining halls at the University of the Show Me State – Asian Carp.


Geologist or Culinary Staff? Who cares! Soup’s On! Photo US Geo Survey

Show Me students have given two thumbs up to fish entrees disguised beneath international hallmarks of fine eating such as; Pasta Putenesca (“best with vodka” quipped a coed), Mexican Jalepeño fish soup (“okay smothered with tortilla chips – gets rid of that Jose Cuervo after-taste from the night before”), and the top Sunday favorite, carp simmered in gallons of Italian gravy over a pile of pasta (“tastes like meat balls” garbled a sleepy undergrad). “Don’t assume it is fish”, a student advised – “except for the leafy stuff – only Bio majors know what’s in anything on the menu – and they eat here – so chill.”

Feed the Tigers – carp! C’mon guys – eat lots and lots – pay it forward – they’ll fit right into your Freshman 15 and never be missed by Mississippi River Rats. Remind rival SEC athletes that you are what you eat – then show them a picture of lunch. Go Mizzou!


Distinguished UM (SL) Alum who’s a Triton not a Tiger

Shucking Finesse

Residents of and visitors to Narragansett Bay spend many low tide cycles digging clams and muscles, tying chicken legs to string and crabbing, baiting lines and casting into the sea. We don’t so much sing for our supper as “ing” for dinner. We eat the sea’s bounty in the form of clam stuffies, crab cakes, chowdas, grilled, fried or blackened catch of the day, and boiled anything caught from the chilly north Atlantic waters.


Shuck’ Em?

During many a summer gone by, our family members would crowd onto our sturdy Boston Whaler, zip down river to an undisclosed location and do the clam dance. It is a simple heal to toe movement done walking through sand and silt in a foot or less of water. When a foot makes contact with a solid object lodged about a hand’s span down in the muck a fresh little neck or quahog clam is found. With a boatload of clammers we could be assured of at least 75 clams within less than a half an hour of doing the dance.

SteamersMy job is to wash the clams and sort them by size. From big to small there are quahogs for chowda,  cherrystones for stuffies and cakes, and little necks for grilling or steaming. I use a garden hose in the backyard and then decide how to cook them. There are many options, steaming and grilling them is the first step. Then it’s either stuff them with Portuguese sausage, cracker crumbs and secret seasonings and bake, or make red (Manhattan), clear (Rhode Island) or white (New England) chowda. Yes, those afflicted with a Rhode Island accent drop final “r’s” on all spoken words.

I haven’t mastered is the skill of shucking  raw clams. This involves sliding a special dull knife between the halves making a quick twist and opening the shell. The chilly meat can be slurped down raw, decked out with pepperoni and garlic butter on the grill or baked with spinach and parmesan cheese.



There is a certain finesse needed to shuck a clam. Mishaps can involve nasty punctures to hand muscles and sliced thumbs. This culinary skill can be seen from a positive or negative view. Shucks can mean disappointment, as in “Aww, shucks”.  In life, it’s something you don’t do well and give up on quick. We compensate for our weaknesses by cooking clams and let them open themselves.

Shucking is also a word that means “to open”. It’s pretty cool to open ourselves to new skills, practice them often, endure a few nicks, and savor the joy of our work. Roger Williams University recently announced the “Grow Your Own” program to help people raise their own oysters. The University will provide aspiring aquaculturists with instruction, equipment, and seed oysters. The RI-OGRE (Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement) program will enroll anyone who has a dock registered with the Coastal Resources Council in good clean water. Everyone has to volunteer in the recreational oyster garden program and take a three day course. Finally, something to do during retirement – become an oyster farmer. I’ve got to practice shucking.

Oyster Farm @ Jamestown

Oyster Farm @ Jamestown

Bon Appetite.