Rent Control?: Sound Food clam chowder

When I moved to Vashon in 1971, Ginny found me a waterfront cabin on Klahanie Beach that rented for $75 a month. Granted, getting there required hiking down a steep, quarter-mile path from the road—pitch dark at night and treacherous in the winter—but still, once I got there, my porch was the beach with views of whales, seals, and cargo ships passing by. From there, I moved to an inland, three-bedroom rambler on five acres—purchase price $45,000. Granted, in the 1970s, $45,000 wasn’t chump change, but still…

In the late 70s, Sweetie and I lived on the island as summer-home gypsies. We would find a place in September, move out in June, then move back in at the end of summer. We rented a loft in Betty MacDonald’s farm for $100/month, so deep in the woods that we dressed for winter in the morning, then went uptown to warm up. Then for a few years there was the Klinks’—a tiny, high-bank waterfront on Tramp Harbor, built by a ship’s captain in the 1930s, complete with captain’s wheel, stained-glass lookout, a productive Italian plum tree, and a killer view of Mt. Rainier. A few years later with two full-time salaries, we stepped up and rented Normie’s house above the Quartermaster Yacht Club—modern, bath and a half, full kitchen, wood stove—$200.00/month.

We lost one salary and for $125.00/month, we rented the top floor at the Cove Motel (known then as a good place to buy weed) and lived above a clutch of bikers who loved to party, dressed in scary black leather, and had even scarier black dogs. One late night (or was it early morning), after listening for hours to thumps and hoots, I summoned up the nerve, marched downstairs to complain about the noise, pounded on their door, and retreated meekly back up the stairs after the tallest, meanest biker opened the door and barked, “What!” But we loved the Cove—pre-Fixer Upper, open-concept design, with kitchen, bathroom, living area in one room, and a tiny space with a bed that opened out to the ocean breezes. Luckily we didn’t have much stuff as all storage was along the outdoor staircase.

We lived in Olympia for a while—in a mid-century rambler close to the water and then, in a rundown, Westside bungalow purchased for $23,000 and sold six months later for $25,000. We had friends who lived in Boston Harbor—waterfront rentals for $100-125/month—and we loved going there for poker, bridge, and general merriment. Boston Harbor, like Vashon, was small, affordable, and funky. Ginny and I took a little trip there a few weeks ago to see what was left of the old charm. Glad to report that the charm, smallness, and funkiness remain—affordability, not so much.

And…happy Fourth of July!

Sound Food Clam or Fish Chowder

  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 3 stalks celery fine dice
  • 1 fine diced onion
  • 4 carrots—fine dice
  • 4 smallish red potatoes, peeled
  • 1 t. dry thyme
  • 1⁄4 t. dill or 1 head fresh dill
  • 2 c. fish stock, clam juice or chicken stock
  • 2 c. 1⁄2 & 1⁄2 or heavy cream
  • 2 cans canned chopped clams or 1# firm fish (salmon, halibut, cod, snapper)
  • 2 c. corn (fresh is best, but frozen is fine) 

Melt butter and mix in flour. Sauté one to two minutes, stirring constantly, to develop roux.

Add vegetables and herbs, sauté to coat, stirring constantly. Add stock and simmer until thickened and vegetables are soft, 15-20 minutes.

Add cream, simmer gently for two minutes.

Greens—beet, mustard, collard—are also great in this soup. Add after hard vegetables are cooked.

Add chopped clams or raw cubed fish and corn. Bring back to a simmer.

Serve with pesto, red pepper rouille, chopped parsley

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2 Responses to Rent Control?: Sound Food clam chowder

  1. Patricia A Curtis says:

    A very sweet post , Marla, where have those days gone? Happy 4 th to you! Stay well love you❤️

  2. Kathy says:

    I had no idea you lived in all these places. I just remember your beautiful house on Vashon. I loved that place. I make smoked salmon chowder a lot like the clam chowder recipe. Hope you are both well! ♥️♥️♥️

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