Sunday, August 3, 2014

Chowder Challenge

We’re on our annual pilgrimage to the land of  Massachusetts’ middle-aged (although in my case I’d have to live to 120 to qualify for that category), otherwise known as Cape Cod.

We’re only into day one, but we arrived yesterday in a torrential downpour and have filled the succeeding hours obsessively checking the Weather Channel. This morning was spent looking for warm sweatshirts and poking around in a few gift shops.

We puttered enough time away that before we knew it, a cup of chowder sounded just the ticket. We took ourselves to a little hole in the wall place we’ve passed a gazillion times, thinking surely anything this old and picturesque was the type of place people congratulate themselves on finding and must have a secret recipe for the best chowder around.

We entered and were swept into 1942, give or take.
A small area with battered (worn out, not breaded) tables and chairs, filled to capacity was on our left. One whole corner was taken up by a family that consisted only of people over the age of 70, all hard of hearing and as a result, loud. We told ourselves this only added to the off-beat charm.

We went to our right, where a counter surrounded by stools offered seating. Yes, seating, but only if your legs were the length of Mickey Rooney’s, since the stools were bolted to the floor about eight inches from the counter. My 6’3” husband cleverly straddled the bend in the counter, thus gaining an expansive inch and a half.
The unseen portion is more rustic, believe it or not.

     I took a quick look at the menu and ordered the luscious-sounding crab stew, and then headed off to the ladies room 
uni-sex bathroom.

Palatial it wasn’t.

But this was an adventure, I told myself.

After a pretty hefty wait, our severely unsmiling waitress brought us our chowders (clam chowder for Hub). It was impossible to determine which was the crab and which the clam, they were both so heavily spiced with some unnamable seasoning. Mine seemed to be broth, potatoes, and flakes of green things – herbs, I suppose, but what herbs? At least my husband’s looked like a New England chowder, with a milk base.

But we again told ourselves, this was an adventure, right?

     We immediately dumped every available cracker in and set to, both of us burning our mouths. My husband finished his because, God love him, he always eats everything put before him (he’s a joy to cook for), and I tried my best because our waitress frightened me. I didn’t want to think about the consequences if I walked away from a full bowl.
     We finally managed to finish, pay the bill, extract our legs from the counter’s vice-like grip, and scurry out to the fresh air of 2014.

Lesson learned: Not all local haunts harbor brilliant but undiscovered cooks. 


  1. This reminds me of our trip to Boston last Fall, looking for foliage and charm. We drove for hours to get to Cape Cod and other touristy haunts, only to eat at another hole in the wall as the one you encountered. The adventure we told ourselves was memorable because we didn't come face to face with our expectations...Considering the expenses, though, this adventure is still hard to swallow.

  2. Oh my! What a disappointment. I love to read anything you write. That last picture made me laugh. Did anyone but the waitress even know you were there? Have fun!


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