It is hard, as March gets underway, not to think about warmer weather, going outside, eating great seafood and preparing for the summer. Last night, I went to bed feeling pretty good. When I drove home at 5:00 it was still light out. Ok, lighter than it was a month ago. My mind always goes to one of my happy places during the hour long drive it takes to get home. Today, my happy place was Woodman’s of Essex. I grew up in Essex, which is on the Essex River, which is in Cape Ann, which is on the North Shore. Don’t mix it up with the South Shore either! As I start my commute on this early March day, I am commuting home from work, but also daydreaming in my mind, not so very long ago, when the weather is warmer, the clam chowder tastes a little bit better for some reason, the fried clams are crispier and lobsters are begging to be steamed and served with lemon and butter. Now of course, Woodman’s is open year round, and they still use the freshest ingredients on their seafood menu. But, there is just something about being able to look out over the incredible salt marsh, the smell of salt water in the air, and even the sounds of the seagulls is music to the ear.
I know in Massachusetts there are driving while distracted laws against texting while driving and you are required to use a hands free device while driving and talking on a cell phone, but there is no law against being hungry while driving or thinking about fried clams while driving, or steamed clams and boiled lobster while driving, or the best onion rings known to mankind, or the clam chowder, or the lobster rolls! THE LOBSTER ROLLS!! Did I mention the lobster rolls? You have got to try the homemade lobster rolls, made from a family recipe that has been around as long as Woodman’s itself. That would be going on 100 years if you did not already know. I may not have that exactly right but the point is the lobster rolls are seriously out of this world.
The lobster rolls are for another time and another story. Right now, I am trying to stay focused on the road. Back to my happy place….
Woodman’s is much more than a 100 year old clam shack that is still family owned and operated. It is a true harbinger of Spring and all that is good in the world. That may be a bit melodramatic, but true none the less. Woodman’s has stood strong as a symbol of tradition, family, good food and good times for 100 years. You cannot help but think of the people who drive for miles to stand in line on a hot summer’s day just to get their Woodman’s fix of fried clams, onion rings, scallops, clam cakes to eat just a few…
Where was I? Oh yeah, Woodman’s is more than a lobster shack. Woodman’s is tradition, it remains a shining light at the end of the LONG winter tunnel. Woodman’s is a constant and reassuring sign that the season of sun, sand and clambakes is just around the corner. Woodman’s is always there to welcome you back regardless of how long you have been away. For me, it has been more than twenty years. Even after two decades, I still think of Woodman’s when I need a happy place to go. There is an expression “when life throws you clams, throw a clambake“. Not really, but wouldn’t a clambake be fun right now? My point is, no matter what life throws at you, there is something comforting in the knowledge that some things and places are constant and always offer you a huge, comforting embrace.
I am one of those New Englanders who accepts things to be what they are. Winter in New England is one of those things. It is what it is no matter how much I wish it to be something else. If death and taxes are the only certainties in life, then winter in New England is the third and Woodman’s is the fourth certainty in life. And traffic, traffic would be the 5th certainty in life.
Back to my happy place…..