About Ben’s boat and clam digging

1971, Homer, Alaska


In my “Other Life.”

My friend Ben was like a funny big brother…only he was exactly a year younger than me! In my “other life” my second husband and I owned a motor home and Ben and his wife owned a old yellow bus. We spanned the coast of Alaska in our wheels. We lived up in Eagle River Valley and one morning the phone rang ….

“Hey ya’ all. This here’s Ben. You guys wanna’ go clam diggin’ in Homer tomorrow?”

“Sure,” we said. “We will meet you in Eagle River.”

We piled our clam digging stuff in the motor home and met Ben and Nadene. They were pulling Ben’s flat bottom river boat with the big old-old yellow school bus, equipped with the necessary comforts of living away from home. Ben made aluminum flat bottom river boats and sold them. They were wonderful and roomy with inboard jet motors.

We made several stops on our way to Homer, just goofing off. It was late when we got to Homer and we parked, as you could do in those days, on the beach across from the Salty Dog Saloon on the Homer Spit. We made plans that night for clam digging across the bay, around a big campfire, telling stories until the wee hours.

Next morning, not so early, we launched the river boat in the launching area of the marina on the other side of the Salty Dog. It was a glorious warm day, glassy water, not a breeze. We reached the area we had planned to dig clams. We dug and we dug. We stopped and had a picnic.

Ben and Nadene were from Texas, Lubbock, I think. Ben’s idea of a picnic was “what-bread,” two pieces of “blonee” and big thick slice of onion with lots of “man-naze.”

Tummies full, we dug and dug some more. We had only three buckets with us, and in those days we were allowed 60 razor clams each. I think there was no limit on the butter clams or any type of other clams or mussels. We hit the jackpot and each got our limit of razor clams, plus a big variety of other clams. We did not have a place to put all the clams, so Ben turned the cover of the inboard motor over and made a big holding area for all the clams. One side of the cover was open. We piled them in, heaping clams of every sort, in the back side of the cover behind the two back seats. Time came to head home.

We were tired and sunburnt and hungry for a big clam feed around another big campfire on the beach next to the water where the yellow bus was parked. We made our way across the beautiful glassy water, singing songs and enjoying every bit of what was left of the sunny Homer day.

Coming across the water, Ben in all his wisdom spotted his old yellow bus. He decided he can beach the boat on the beach close to the bus, instead of at the marina, and then we would not have to carry all those clams up the steep steps of the marina and across the parking lots, across the Spit road, to the old yellow bus. He pushed the throttle into full forward and we took off faster and faster. He thinks he can land the boat in the sand, right down from the yellow bus.

My husband, Richard, in all his wisdom, sees what Ben is about to do, puts his arm across me and tells me, “Brace yourself and hang on!” Nadene in the front next to Ben was saying “Whee-Whee!” She loved to go fast in anything!

We hit the beach at full throttle and we stopped! No sliding, no gliding. We stopped like a huge suction cup was attached to the bottom of the boat.

We were forced forward, and ended up hanging over the tops of the front seat. My husband had his arms over Ben’s shoulders and my hands were in the seat where Nadene was. She had been shoved under the dashboard in the bow of the boat and was sitting cross legged and stooped over, peeking out, wondering what in the world happened.

Just as fast as we hit the beach, we started getting pelted with clams, gunk from the inlet water, mud and sand that was in the bottom of the motor cover. It was raining clams! We pushed ourselves back into our seats. Nadene crawled out from under her little home under the dash board.

Ben, with the steering wheel in his hand, turned, steering wheel still in his hands — it had broken off — yelled, “Is anyone hurt? Is anyone hurt?”

He did not fully comprehend that he was turning around and looking to see if anyone was hurt with the steering wheel still held in a driving position.

Nadene had gotten back up on the seat full of clam gunk, muddy water and bits and pieces of clam shells hanging off her. She turned and attacked Ben with her open hand, screaming in her Texas accent. “Lookee! LOOKee wat ya’ don’ Ben! Lookee lookee!” She kept beating on him. We all looked at each other, Ben still with his broken steering wheel in his hands, gunk dripping off everyone, and we started to laugh. We laughed uncontrollably! We laughed so hard that Nadene stopped beating on Ben and seeing the humor, pointing at us, not knowing that she looked the worst and started laughing. Ben was still in total shock still had a death grip on the steering wheel.

To be continued next week.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a selftaught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci.net.

Halibut lasagna

My creation on a winter day — lots of compliments

Poached or left over halibut about 2—3 cups

To poach halibut (or salmon) — bring a large pot of water to a boil with spices such as parsley, oregano, thyme, red pepper-small amount lemon pepper and garlic salt and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or 1 teaspoon regular table salt, 1/4 cup sugar. When water comes to a full boil, gently drop the trimmed halibut pieces into hot water. (Remove all dark spots from halibut!)

After 1 minute, turn off the burner and put the lid on. Do not remove from burner. Let set for one hour or more. Drain and let cool.

Break into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

While the halibut is poaching make the white sauce and chop fresh vegetables.

About 1 cup each of fresh sliced mushrooms, small bite sized broccoli florets

About 1/2 cup each chopped diced onion, sliced and chopped red and green bell peppers

Thin sliced celery

White cheese sauce

4 cups of milk in a large saucepan

Add the following:

1/2 teaspoon each: dill weed, onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard, paprika, lemon-pepper, sea salt or table salt.

Bring to a simmer, then add:

1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water stir to dissolve.

Swirl milk with whisk as you slowly pour cornstarch-water into hot milk mixture. This burns easily — stir until just thickened and take off stove and stir in:

1 large pkg of fresh shredded mozzarella cheese — use your judgment how much cheese you want…stir until cheese melts.

1 pkg of lasagna noodles

Place two to three tablespoons of white cheese sauce into a well buttered 9 X 13 glass baking dish.

Lay lasagna noodles on sauce.

Sprinkle half the vegetables over noodles, layer the all the large flaked halibut over vegetables. Spread 1/3 the white cheese sauce over. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Layer with noodles, vegetable, 1/3 sauce, parmesan cheese, end with noodles and the remaining 1/3 the white sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and black pepper and paprika. Cover with plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate or freeze. Or bake with foil on for 35 minutes and another 35 to 40 minutes in 350-degree oven. Bake until it gets bubbly on the sides and slightly brown on the top. Do not over bake as everything is cooked but the vegetables.

Halibut tends to dry out if baked too long.

Tips: If sauce is too thick, thin with warm milk.

For added taste you could add Swiss cheese on the first layer of the noodles. (middle of casserole)

If frozen — thaw in refrigerate over night or 6 to 8 hours. Bake.-be sure to take off the plastic wrap and replace the foil for 45 minutes.

You may have more ingredients left over — make a small pan for your neighbor. Enjoy — we did! And Bob, who does not like seafood casseroles, wanted this the next night. Now you know that it’s a tasty winner!

Grey’s Potato Chips

We celebrated Grey’s 24th birthday yesterday. This was his very favorite snack day after day when he was growing up. I finally wrote this recipe down for him and bought him an electric frying pan, some oil and a sack of potatoes so he could feed himself. Then he switched to pancakes — three times a day!

Select new potatoes that Porter has grown.

Wash and dry them. Cut in thin strips with the skin on.

Blot dry each slice.

In a skillet with two inches of oil that is medium hot:

Carefully lay potato slices in oil. Fry until golden brown. Dip out with slotted spoon and put on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve (to Grey and Bob).

Rhubarb Custard Pie

The following recipe is repeated by request!

I always bake this at Thanksgiving and Christmas, in place of my Grandma’s cherry pie. It is the first pie I baked when I came to Alaska in 1967 and the first pie I bake each spring time after the rhubarb pokes up through the soil.

Beat together:

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

3 tbsp flour

1 cup sugar — you may use more, up to 1/2 cup.

Dash of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

Pour this mixture over 3 to 4 cups of fresh or frozen rhubarb, placed in an unbaked pie shell.

Mix and sprinkle on top:

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup butter

½ cup flour

¼ teas nutmeg

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and at 350 degrees for 30 more minutes.


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