November 29, 2012

Ishmael’s chowder


If you read the “Illuminations” in the back of Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, there is a recipe for roasting a certain kind of nut … but it’s a secret, so back off!

That is unless you buy the book and check it out yourself.

I’ve been reading Moby Dick for the first time — I know, it’s shameful. I started by candlelight, just as Hurricane Sandy was sounding like it was going to send the Plexiglas off my skylight and into a sedan across the street. I started to read it out loud, perhaps egged on by all the buzz around the novel on the internet — what with celebrities lining up to each read a chapter for, and the recent marathon hosted here in NYC, where fans of all stripes got on stage to power through the Leviathan in one weekend. It’s a nice thing to give vocabulary to the sleet now making New York so wet and cold as well as provide some perspective on what “cold” really feels like.

I won’t reveal the nut-roasting recipe in the back of Bartleby, no matter how hard you squeeze me, but if you read Moby-Dick, you can find Ishmael and Queequeg’s favorite chowder:

“Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.”

This form of chowder seems to predate the development of a creamy broth, so you could always improve that part yourself. Also, it might be hard to find “ship biscuit,” which is a form of the hardtack they munched on in the Civil War.

So, I command our readers from the cabin of the Pequod, tell us your literary-themed recipes!

We will feed on books and the food in books together this holiday!



Will Vincent is an intern at Melville House.