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Clam Cake Land: The Origins and Enduring Popularity of a Local Summer “Sacrament” Explained

July 13, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Join the Narragansett Historical Society Thursday, July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Clarke Center (170 Clarke Road) for an interesting talk by Great Clam Cake and Fritter Guide author Carolyn Wyman. She will discuss the communal consumption of clam-flavored doughnut holes and how this treat was a near-sacred summer ritual in Rhode Island and almost nowhere else, and how Clam cakes’ origins as a filling first course at Victorian clambakes hold the key to this mystery.

Wyman’s talk, which is based on her newly released book, will dig deep into the history, culture and cuisine of this cultish regional specialty, which was first served at pavilions and amusement parks surrounding Narragansett Bay in the mid-to-late 1800s, including the still fondly-remembered Rocky Point and Crescent Park.

Come and hear stories behind the roadside restaurants and drive-ins that replaced the resorts as clam-cake sources when cars replaced  steamboats and trolleys as Americans’ favorite mode of transportation, including the 103-year-old James Beard Award-winning Aunt Carrie’s, the 1930’s lunch-shack-turned-local institution that is George’s and the sea wall-situated former bait shop Monahan’s.

The Great Clam Cake and Fritter Guide (Globe Pequot, $21.95) is the definitive clam cake history, cookbook and travel guidebook, discussing artistic and event tributes to this food and containing more than 20 recipes and 50 restaurant profiles. Carolyn Wyman is the Rhode Island native author of seven previous food books, including The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie BookBetter Than HomemadeSpam: A Biography,  Jell-O: A Biography and The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book, about the favorite fatty food in her current hometown of Philadelphia. But she was weaned on clam cakes and stuffies and still has Del’s and coffee milk running through her veins.

A book signing will follow the 45-minute illustrated talk.


July 13, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Narragansett Historical Society
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Clarke Center
170 Clarke Road
Narragansett, RI 02882 United States
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