I was out of town, and it broke my heart to miss Ipswich’s annual Chowderfest. But the greater heartbreak was yet to come. I returned just in time to find last week’s edition of the Ipswich Chronicle full of dreadful news on page A5. No, not the usual dreadful news. The obituaries were on Page B11. This week’s really dreadful news was that a Hamilton group took the People’s Choice award for best clam chowder.
Hamilton! This is so, so wrong. In about a thousand ways.
Yes, I realize that anything called a “People’s Choice” award is going to involve people voting, and people are crazy. Just look at the House of Representatives. The wild-eyed whims of the unwashed masses have been a matter of concern ever since we were setting up this country, when John Adams got ulcers over the “tyranny of the majority.”
Still, majority or no, what happened at this year’s Chowderfest is unthinkable, like a Canadian team winning the World Series. It should not even be in the realm of possibility that any Ipswich Chowderfest award could be won by Hamilton. We are Ipswich. The clam is practically our official town mollusk.
But I am not one to cry over spilt tartar sauce. I am about solutions. So, to avoid any possibility of a repeat occurrence of this year’s sickening outcome, I today suggest a couple simple but vitally important possible adjustments to our Chowderfest arrangements.
Option #1: Nobody from outside Ipswich can vote. If you’re from Hamilton, Rowley, Essex, or anywhere else, you can come and spend your money and eat all your want, but you cannot vote. You proved your unreliability this year. We’re only saving you from incurring additional contempt.
To keep the infidels from voting, a new Chowderfest voter-security system will be implemented. Don’t worry; this will be low-cost. Our cheerful Town Constable Peter Dziadose will stand at the ballot box and determine whether you can vote or not, based on whether he knows you or not. Since he knows everyone in Ipswich, this system will be foolproof.
Option #2: Everybody can vote, but only Ipswich chowders can be entered in the competition. This seems fair to me. There’s a reason it’s called the Ipswich Chowderfest. Ipswich clams are world-famous, and they have been for a long, long time. As a child in Chicago, nearly half a century ago, I chose “Ipswich clams” off the menu at our local Howard Johnson’s restaurant. I have never seen “Hamilton clams” on any menu. Of course not. Hamilton is landlocked. Hamilton is at its closest point more than two miles from open water, and that’s in Manchester-by-the-Sea. If a clam came from Manchester-by-the-Sea — which it wouldn’t, but let’s just say it did — it would have to crawl all the way to Hamilton, because Manchester-by-the-Sea doesn’t even have bus service, let alone clam flats.
To get to the nearest clam flat from the Hamilton town line, it’s every bit of four and a half miles, as the crow flies. And if it’s a crow flying, I assure you, it is not bringing you a fresh clam. Any clam a crow brings you in Hamilton is not a fresh clam. These people should not be cooking with clams. Hamilton is inland. It has stables. These people should be cooking with oats. Do we drive down from Ipswich and stuff the ballot box during their Oatfest? No, we do not. Because they don’t have an Oatfest. Apparently, the time and energy they could be spending mounting their own Oatfest, they’re spending on rigging our Chowderfest. Forgive me, but I’m upset.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Hamilton. I have almost three really good friends in Hamilton. But this is about something bigger than friendship. This is about our own clams being used against us. It’s got to stop.
Next year, we take the trophy. Until then, I say, Eat local. No, I mean really local.