Stirring up 4th of July memories with the Gazette's foodie in-residence, Lou Groccia
The Fourth of July always stirs up family memories for me. I can remember large family gatherings from 50 years ago as if they were yesterday.
One Fourth of July in the late 1950s, my large extended Italian family decided to have a clambake at my uncle’s Grafton home. We must have devoured five bushels of clams, along with corn on the cob and the usual grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.
We even built a fire and dug a trench and cooked the clams over the hot coals and stones. Ah, the good old days.
The Fourth of July for many means fireworks, parades, flags, hikes in the woods, Pops on the promenade. But for true, red-blooded Americans, it’s about the important things in life, like food.
The clambake was not unusual for us since we had them all the time in the late 1950s and ’60s while building a small Cape Cod cottage in Dennis. The cottage is no longer in our family but the empty beer bottles still help support the foundation.
One year while down the Cape for the Fourth, one of my relatives went fishing and brought home striped sea bass, which we had with a butter-drenched Ritz-cracker stuffing. To this day it is still the best stuffing (and fish) I have ever had. And I was only 12.
Of course there were bushels of clams to go with the fish. I can distinctly remember the clams squirting their juices at us before we covered them in water and cornmeal to soak for a few hours before the bake. Being only 12, I thought this was exceedingly funny. My refined sense of humor did not develop until much later in life. Make that any day now.
Another vivid memory of Fourth of July celebrations was in the early 1960s when my uncle Fausto and his older children visited from Rome. We all gathered at another uncle’s home in Grafton. Along with the seafood and grilled items, my uncle Fausto introduced us to the mysteries of spaghetti carbonara.
I can still see him breaking raw eggs into the just-served steaming bowl of pasta and tossing the whole thing with lots of black pepper and a little Parmesan cheese. Being around 16 at the time, I was duly impressed. I think this was the moment when I first became a foodie, before the term was coined. The thought of it still makes me feverish to this day.
This Fourth of July we’ll be doing what most other patriotic Americans will be doing: hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. I wanted to do a clambake but my wife didn’t like the idea of digging up her flower beds for the fire pit.
So I salute you, memories of past Fourth of July celebrations. May our future food festivities be as memorable.