I've heard it called the Quaker Holy Day for Friends on the South Coast of Massachusetts, that is the day of the annual Allen's Neck Clam Bake. The one day a year where friends and families; attenders and members; and people near and far come to the Westport/Dartmouth Massachusetts area to partake in this event.
They feed over 500 people and raise a significant percentage of the meeting's annual budget on this one day. Its a "all hands on deck" affair that is seeped in tradition, culture and generations of memories. For over 125 years Allen's Neck Friends Meeting has been hosting the event. Last year, Friends Journal published a great article on the clambake's history which tells the tale of the clambake from its very beginning. While many of the same recipes are used some things have changed, such as where the clams are harvested and the actual location of the clambake. Still the tradition lives on.
I've heard about this clambake for much of my life. My mother spent her teenage years down the street from Allen's Neck Friends Meeting and in fact it was the very first Quaker meeting she attended. As a teenager myself, I spend my summers in Dartmouth with my grandparents and extended family. A few times on an extended bike ride I found myself either at Allen's Neck or Smith Neck Friends Meetings, both who host a clambake each year. I saw signs for that year's clambakes and the charred honored remnants on the ground of last years fires and asked my mom about it. The legendary clambake was always a bit of a mystery to me. Growing up in Baltimore I had eaten my share of crabs but hearing my mother's stories about raking cohogs and clams and cooking them over the fire was something different.
While I couldn't stay for the whole event this year, I did make it down for the morning. Heading out of Boston before rush hour and beating most of the traffic down to the South coast, I arrived around 8:30am to find the clambake locale already teeming with activity. I helped a group of women turn gallons of ingredients into stuffing at the meeting house, women who prided themselves in this job each year. Then I headed down to the tables and the cooking fire to take some pictures. If you ever get a chance to participate, to help out or to buy a ticket and eat your to your hearts content, do it. I can't wait to come back next year for the whole day--there is depth, there is tradition, there is beauty in the holy community event.