Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sidney Bechet – "Hold Tight (Want Some Sea Food Mama)" (1938)

If you don't have oysters, clams will do
I want a seafood dish!

As we learned in the previous 2 or 3 lines, man does not live by fried clams alone.  Fried clams are delicious, but so are fried scallops and fried oysters.

Earlier this month, I visited Lena's, a humble clam shack in Salisbury Beach, the northernmost town in Massachusetts.  

Lena's opened for business in 1958.  It was originally located on Salisbury Beach's thriving boardwalk, which featured a Charles I. D. Looff carousel,  roller coasters, and bumper cars.

The entertainers who performed in Salisbury Beach in its heyday included Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Liberace, and Frank Sinatra.

Salisbury Beach fell on hard times on the sixties, and Lena's moved to a new building located further inland in 1972:

From the looks of things, not much has changed at Lena's since then – which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

The prices at Lena's are certainly right – for just $12.75, I got 18 juicy and sweet fried scallops and a heaping helping of extraordinary onion rings: 

On weekends, Lena's offers fried lobster.  I've never seen fried lobster on a restaurant menu on Cape Cod or in Maine, but it seems to be a standard offering at seafood restaurants in northeastern Massachusetts.

Lena's also offers three types of chowder: clam chowder, fish chowder, and "clish" chowder (which I assume is a hybrid of the first two chowders).

A few days after supping at Lena's, I visited Captain Cass's, a venerable clam shack that overlooks Rock Harbor in Orleans, Massachusetts:

Captain Cass's is a tiny and somewhat ramshackle BYOB establishment with a diner-style counter and fewer than a dozen tables.  It's open six days a week from 11 until 2 and 5 until 8.

The service was a bit amateurish when I ate at Captain Cass's – the young waitress dropped a small condiment cup full of Tartar sauce in my lap – and the onion rings were frozen.

But my fried oysters came with a crispy exterior and a soft, juicy interior, and were full of flavor.  Even the most humble Cape Cod eateries can be pricey, but Captain Cass charged only $12.95 (cash and checks only, please) for a large plate of fried oysters, fries, and cole slaw:

Lobster prices in New England are still reasonable, which makes lobster rolls a popular choice at restaurants like Lena's and Captain Cass's. 

"Lobster roll:  all meat, no filler"
But as tasty as lobster rolls can be, I think they are a little overrated compared to fried clams, fried scallops, and fried oysters.  Not as overrated as the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen, perhaps, but overrated nonetheless.  

"Hold Tight" was a hit for the Andrews Sisters in 1938, but it was first recorded by Sidney Bechet and his Orchestra.

Bechet was a New Orleans jazz saxophonist and clarinetist who started performing publicly when he was still a teenager.  He moved to New York City shortly after turning 21, and toured extensively in Europe, eventually relocating to France.

Sidney Bechet
Woody Allen named one of his children after Bechet, and featured his music on the Midnight in Paris soundtrack.

Here's "Hold Tight":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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