Newport Stories and Tips

The History of the Quahog.

When I mention Rhode Island and its food, I always mention the quahog. Many people outside of New England have never heard of a quahog, and I tell them it is like a big clam.

When I was a student at the University of Idaho in the mid-1990's, I took several classes on the history of Native Americans from my favorite History professor there, Bill Swagerty. During my last semester at UI, I took is Native American/White Relations class, and one of our topics was about the tribes of New England, the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts. Professor Swagerty began to talk about wampum, the Native American currency made from qhahog shells. Professor Swagerty started to say that wampum was made from quahogs, and he began to pronounce the word. I began to wonder "What the heck is he trying to say." Then Professor Swagerty saw me looking at him like he was crazy and said, "Dianne, you looked puzzled. What's the matter?" I said to him "I think you mean quahog." He was very impressed with me and said to the class that I was from Rhode Island. In future classes, Professor Swagerty still couldn't pronounce "quahog" and had me say it everytime he needed to.

Quahog is pronounced kwa-hog or ko-hog, depending on which part of New England or the United States you are from. I pronounce it the former way. The quahog is indigenous to the waters of New England and is a bivalve crustacean and is a cousin to the clam. Quahogs are best eaten stuffed with bread stuffing and quahog meat baked in its shells or in chowder.

So if you ever go to Rhode Island, make sure that you either go to a supermarket or to a good seafood restaurant for some Stuffies (stuffed quahogs) or chowder. You will never forget the experience.

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