Before our trip, I booked a “digging for dinner” experience for our family. I wanted us, but particularly the kids, to experience things on PEI that an island family would experience or know about. Digging for soft-shell clams during low tide fit the bill!
We met our guide, Ron, in Summerside and followed him out to a spot where salt water and fresh water meet. We grabbed some shovels and a bucket and off we went onto the sand.
You don’t need a license to dig clams but there is a maximum number you can collect a day and each clam has to be a minimum of 2 inches long. Ron had a guage for measuring:
Ron, a retired teacher, really knew how to engage the children right away. He explained about the minimum size requirement and then made Claire and Ren “sheriffs” in charge of measuring the clams. Can you tell how thrilled Ren was?!
Ron explained that we had to look for little holes, a sure sign of clams. And then you simply dig and bring them up.
We adults usually did the digging while the kids fetched the clams and measured them.
The clams would often squirt sea water when dug up. We called them “squirters”. Claire loved to call out, “Oh, we have a squirter over here!” or some such phrase. They would also stick something (??) out of the shell as they squirted. It was actually pretty gross looking. As soon as Ren would take hold of a clam, he’d always use one finger to stick that pokey-outy-thing back into its shell. It was a pretty funny little routine despite its high ick factor for me.
The clams were so plentiful that often the kids would grab a whole handful before going back to the pail to measure them.
The Law took some turns digging as well.
Both kids worked really hard and were totally into the experience. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case so I was especially thrilled about their participation. It was cute to hear Claire call out various little things like, “Oh, we got a keeper here!” or “Keep up the good work, Mama!” or “That’s a lover!” As for Ren, once he got tired of measuring clams, he was happy to just hop around the sand and look at stuff. Whenever Ron went walking about, Ren followed.
Before long, we had more than enough clams for our dinner:
Ron then took us back to his friend’s yard where there is a 1942 CN caboose. It was a great setting for a rustic little meal and a fun place for the kids to visit.
You know the saying, “happy as a clam?” Well, that was Ren in the caboose:
By the way, I just googled the phrase, “happy as a clam” to learn its origin. Apparently, the original saying (dating back to the 1800’s) was “happy as a clam in high water”, meaning the clams were safe from predators at high tide. Somewhere over the years, the latter half of the saying dropped off.
Ron chopped up some onions, garlic and carrots to steam with the clams in a broth of beer and butter.
And then out we went into the yard to steam them. Before long, they were done and we had ourselves a feast!
We had more clams than we could eat. Ren tried only one, Claire had a few, I had several and Paul had lots. They were very yummy but I was a little grossed out by the memory of those sticky-outy-things.
This experience was definitely a highlight of the trip for all of us. It was something completely different from our lives in Alberta, and Ron made the adventure fun and interesting for kids and adults alike. Now, if and when we return to PEI, we’ll be able to go out digging for clams on our own!