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Cape Cod Cape Cod Chowders

The making of a good Cape Cod fish chowder involved almost as much ceremony as a holy rite. The story is told of an old sea captain who was famous for his chowders. He set out at daybreak for his catch of fish, and returned at noon, ready to start the chowder.

First he would get a huge iron kettle that was once used for “b’ilin’ ile” (boiling oil) on a whaleship’s tryworks. Then he built a fire in the stone fireplace in back of the house. Chowders were always made and eaten outdoors.

The leather-faced old captain, with his sou’wester atop his head, rolled up his sleeves and his trousers, and sat down beside his boat tub with a sailor’s sheath-knife, ready to clean the fish and prepare the vegetables. No one ever knew what went into his chowder because he wouldn’t let anyone come near enough to see what magic he was brewing.

When the chowder was bubbling in the big kettle, the stir-ring began. Like the “Cook of the Nancy Brig” he…

“stirred it around and added the Salt, And the pepper in portions true, Which he never forgot and some, chopped shallot—With some sage and parsley too.”

The captain was in a rare good humor as he put more pieces of driftwood on the fire and stirred his chowder. He would burst into song, usually a sea chanty.

Then I up with his heels, And smothered his squeals In the scum of the boiling broth.

At some time or other, before the chowder was ready to be ladled into big bowls, the old salt would bellow out:

Oh, a ship she was rigged and ready for sea,
Windy weather, Stormy weather!!
And all of her sailors were fishes to be,
Blow ye winds, westerly, gentle sou’westerly,
Blow ye wind westerly steady she goes.

Oh, first came tide herring, the king o’ the sea,
Windy weather! Stormy weather!!
He jumped on the poop. ‘I’ll be cap’n!’ cried he.
Blow ye winds, westerly, gentle sou’westerly,
Blow ye winds westerly - steady she goes.

Oh, next came the flatfish, they call him a skate,
Windy weather! Stormy weather!!
If you be the cap’n why sure I’m the mate.
Blow ye winds, westerly, gentle sou’westerly,
Blow ye winds westerly - steady she goes.

Chowder-making days such as these were never forgotten.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 03/03/06
Categories: Food
Keywords: food, chowder


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