You can't escape the taste of the food you had as a child
November 11, 2018 10:01 PM   Subscribe

The Food Dictator declares: My Citizens, we are in the home stretch of our 7-day blowout of ‘recipes from famous closed restaurants’ – and with this one, we have now entered the murky waters of fast food from the days of yore! When I was a child, my grandmother Helen used to take me out to enjoy my favorite meal when we visited her in Manhattan – to Howard Johnson’s for a big plate of fried clam strips! posted by Johnny Wallflower (35 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Neat! And fascinating to see that multiple old stand-by's (Luchows, the Four Seasons) quickly folded after a relocation.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:26 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I imagine the HoJo's clam strips are superior to the ones at Long John Silver. I still eat the LJS ones whenever I go though.
posted by Samizdata at 11:38 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


The "new" Four Seasons hasn't closed.
posted by praemunire at 11:42 PM on November 11, 2018


Yeah, the HoJo's fried clams, in memory, were superior to any others I've ever had... sorry Ivar's, although you do a nice chowder.
posted by The otter lady at 12:58 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


I guess western "America" in this series is represented by Chicago. I miss the Macheezmo Mouse Boss Sauce of my childhood jaunts to Portland.
posted by St. Oops at 1:27 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


There are any number of independently-owned clam shacks in coastal New England that will sell you a plate of clam strips to make the angels sing. Of course, if you want to get the devils harmonizing along, you need to get whole clams. Clam strips are for the squeamish, who are grossed out by clam bellies.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:29 AM on November 12, 2018 [13 favorites]


This post disturbed me because I had somehow forgotten the existence of fried clam strips, and now they're all I can think of.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:38 AM on November 12, 2018 [11 favorites]


oh my god the apple fritters. give me them right now immediately.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:08 AM on November 12, 2018


If you, like me, are from a less mollusc-intensive state and don't know what clam bellies are and how they differ from clam strips, this article may help. Also, "clam" doesn't look like a word anymore.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:39 AM on November 12, 2018 [7 favorites]


While we're talking about clams, one of the reasons why New England-style clams haven't taken the country by storm is that the clam we use here doesn't travel well. The traditional clam here for this sort of thing is the soft-shell clam (aka "steamers," talk to me about steamed clams sometime—fried is nice and all, but…) which as you might guess from their name have fragile shells that don't do well in shipping. You gotta get 'em fresh off the dock, or from a nearby fish market.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:05 AM on November 12, 2018 [8 favorites]


I grew up on fried shrimp that usually had slept in the Gulf of Mexico the night before, so I'm getting a kick out of you guys and your perverted clams with bonus dirt.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:05 AM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


(p.s. I eat them on occasion and I know that dangly bit is not a reproductive organ)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:15 AM on November 12, 2018


Dishes are a dance between recipe, technique, and ingredients.

Any chance the clams of the time had a specific flavor and texture profile? Density and season are relevant when trying to recreate a flavor and often rely on a cook trained to sample and adjust. Then there's the fact that, yes, the taster themselves are changed by everything they taste in life - so literally nothing will ever taste like that first ripe watermelon or salmon jerky or chicharron or uni or clam strip again.
posted by abulafa at 4:46 AM on November 12, 2018


You gotta get 'em fresh off the dock, or from a nearby fish market.

or you could adhere to the word of THE LORD and not eat the nasty phlegm of the sea
posted by poffin boffin at 5:04 AM on November 12, 2018 [20 favorites]


I would kill for a #4 medium rare with a side of steak fries and a salad with Italian dressing from the York Steak House. They're all gone, except for one somewhere in Columbus Ohio. I was driving through a couple summers ago and I almost stopped but the timing didn't work out.

I mean it's just a hamburger, but they called it a "chopped steak sandwich" and served it on a buttery roll. I ate one at least once a month for a few years as a kid. It was our favorite restaurant. It was in the mall so we kids would finish before our parents and then go gaze at all marijuana t-shirts and sexy posters at Spencer Gifts.
posted by bondcliff at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2018 [6 favorites]


The lemon chess pie and chicken salad and the Miller & Rhoads (dept. store) tea room. It’s like everything I thought being a glamorous grown-up lady would taste like.

I also still crave HoJo’s clam strips, ps.
posted by thivaia at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


A clamdog followed with peppermint ice cream was my standard HoJo order as a kid...
posted by jim in austin at 6:39 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Madeleines, schmadeleines—we've got clams.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:50 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


sorry Ivar's, although you do a nice chowder.
Ivar's does a nice chowder, in the way that McDonald's does a nice hamburger, if you've never eaten a hamburger anywhere else before.
posted by xedrik at 7:02 AM on November 12, 2018


I'm in the 'clam strips taste like fried rubber bands' camp, but Asian restaurants now own clam and mussel based dishes for me. Deep frying that stuff is a waste of time and batter.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:08 AM on November 12, 2018


Oh wow. I used to go to Hojo’s as a kid and I would always steal a few clam strips off my brother’s plate. He’d always say “get your own!” One time I did and can you guess what happened?

I was so sad when I barfed clam strips outside the restaurant on our way to the car. So very sad.

(Never again. But I remember the peppermint ice cream fondly.)
posted by 41swans at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh, for the recipe for Posen's cherry pie (which they had on George Washington's birthday). Posen's was a deli in Silver Spring, MD, so as a non-chain I doubt there's a shot. But one day, I shall have the recipe and then WILL HAVE DESSERT. Oh, will I have dessert.

But until then, this will keep me very happy.
posted by datawrangler at 7:53 AM on November 12, 2018


We used to go to HoJos when I was small and they had ALL YOU CAN EAT CLAMS and I could do serious damage to their bottom line when that happened, my otter tendencies kicking in early. However, they will always be "wigglythings" to me, as in "I ate three plates of wigglythings!"
posted by The otter lady at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


(Never again. But I remember the peppermint ice cream fondly.)

Oh, yass. That's the thing that made stopping at HoJo's a treat on road trips. I remember them making a big deal out of the clam strips, and my thinking that they weren't much of a much. But I can still taste and feel the crunch of the peppermint bits in the ice cream.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Nowadays I never eat in chain restaurants because I am a roadfood snob, but I remember vacations when my parents and us kids would be driving down the highway in our two-tone Mercury Comet (at 75 mph with gas 25 cents per gallon) and we kids would be fighting and whining, and then we would see the orange roof of Howard Johnson, and my father would stop the car and we would gorge ourselves on clam strips and pick an ice cream flavor and everything would be good for another hundred miles.
posted by acrasis at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


There are any number of independently-owned clam shacks in coastal New England that will sell you a plate of clam strips to make the angels sing.

Indeed. It's annoying to go to Plymouth, MA because there is only ONE restaurant I can go to and that is LOBSTER HUT WITH THE BEST FRIED CLAM STRIPS EVER and I am missing out on all the other great restaurants there argh!!
posted by Melismata at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2018


Bonus fun fact: Chef Jacques Pepin worked with Pierre Franey in the HoJo corporate kitchen developing meal plans in the 1960's. I don't recall his position on clam strips, feet or otherwise.
posted by hearthpig at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


I always suspected that clam strips were their long-theorized legs.
posted by delfin at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]




Yessssss HoJo's fried clams and peppermint ice cream! Sitting in the freezing air conditioning in my still-damp bathing suit! I loved those fried clams immoderately and have spent my adult life ordering fried clams and having my hopes dashed. They were so big and meaty! Why can't we have fried clams like that anymore?
posted by HotToddy at 12:53 PM on November 12, 2018


My mom’s from Boston, so I grew up with fried clams. I’ve never been to the Clam Box in Ipswich, Mass., but my mom speaks of it with reverence.

I think it’s funny that whenever there’s a thread about some kind of beloved food, people always show up to be like “yeah that food is disgusting and a waste of ingredients.” Like lol OK guess I was wrong.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:33 PM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


We used to stop at HoJos all the time when I was a kid, it was the favored stop for long road trips in the 70s to Florida to visit my grandparents. The clam strips were very popular, and my dad liked it because they made iced coffee properly - a pot of chilled coffee mixed with ice, not hot coffee made watery by melting ice. In the pre-Starbucks days, that was standout unusual.

But it fell off very swiftly in the 1980s, I remember the last time we visited when I was a teenager -- first surprised and pleased to find one (they were already closing fast) and then depressed at how bad it was.
posted by tavella at 1:56 PM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


Anyone else remember "Mad Visits a typical Johnson Howard's Restaurant", Mad#106?
I sometimes do the chant when passing a former HoJo.
posted by MtDewd at 2:31 PM on November 12, 2018


Oh, yes, and the ice cream had frozen ice crystals in it. Man, all the things I could remember, and what sticks in the brain is the disappointment of that chocolate ice cream in some roadside HoJos nearly 40 years ago.
posted by tavella at 2:42 PM on November 12, 2018


I just went and read the New England Today article Faint of Butt linked, and I take issue with it on a couple of points.

One, clam strips are not "cuts of larger surf clams." I mean, OK, maybe that's what they are in parts of the world where children have never been squirted in the face by a quahog as they walked along a beach at low tide or dug futilely after a razor clam as it tunneled away from them faster than their little hands could burrow, but what clam strips are in places that know from clams is the necks of soft-shell clams with the bellies removed. The neck is the sticky-out part of the clam, more properly the siphon, through which it ingests plankton-rich water and also expels water that has had the plankton filtered out.

Two, nobody orders a plate of "clam bellies." (The belly of the clam is what it sounds like; it's the stomach of the clam plus the stomach contents, which are pretty much plankton.) "Clam bellies" is not a menu item; you have clam strips, and then you just have clams. Whole clams, with the neck and the belly together—in fact, everything that comes out once you open the shell.

Finally, if there's sand in your clam bellies it just means that they weren't left in clean seawater long enough to spit it all up before cooking. Sandy clams are just a sign of poor preparation.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:33 PM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


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