It’s got to be said (but not too loudly please): Clam Dip.

Clam dip springs eternal.

This is a wonderful thing – for some people.

There was always a bowl of clam dip placed out on the sideboard with Fritos, celery, and carrot sticks at  Christmas dinner when I was a child. It was an awesome thing somehow, this clam dip. It was all-powerful. It stood for something  – though exactly what it stood for is impossible to precisely define.

The Fritos were part of the whole thing. I can taste the combination now as I write this, and truly how bizarre it is! Crunchy little oversalted thick curly corn chips aided and abetted in crime with whatever clam dip really is (for I believe it is somehow created by a metallurgic process similar to alchemy but with the products of the dairy cow and the ocean: sour cream and clams –  but I don’t want to linger too very long on this thought) coming together on the sideboard in an all-powerful and controlling mass of atoms gently mounded in its delicate red-and-gold poinsettia-glazed bowl .

It was powerful in taste and powerful in how people reacted to it.

I have a cousin who would have dived into the dip head-first if anyone would have allowed it.

As the announcement came to ‘come and have a snack’ he took off through the air like a marble from a slingshot. By the time we all walked in he was bent over the bowl of clam dip almost snuffling the stuff up with the Fritos as fast as the naked eye could see. The celery with its pale fluffy leaves was just there for show . . . as were the stiff little carrot sticks. Nobody ever ate them.

“Give someone else a chance,” his father would admonish him, and he’d back up six inches or so and let a few hands take a few swipes at the stuff.

I didn’t care. There was something about the clam dip that appealed to me deeply. I wanted it, badly. But each year I took one bite and felt like fleeing, anywhere, to Canada, to the deep snow outside, under the white-linened table, or even to the nearest hot dog stand which was hundreds of miles away.

I find the stuff repellent.

But clam dip is such a lovable thing! I tried, I really did. Once I even attempted a homage to clam dip – an essay all bright and bubbly, all serene and jolly, all heartwarming and devout. It wouldn’t happen. No rhetoric could stretch that far, no way no how – not from me . . . not on clam dip.

The clam dip recipe my aunt makes is an excellent one, for she is a very good cook.

And Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without clam dip (and maybe Fritos to go with it) in many homes across the land.

Clam dip. It’s got to be said.

Just don’t say it too loudly, please.

For one thing, it will scare me.

For another, I heard that my cousin (now a man well into middle-age and not usually prone to excessive behavior of any kind) actually ate the entire contents of the clam dip bowl last year. Not a drop left for anyone else.

He survived, and there are more like him everywhere.

There may be one near you.


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