August 5, 2018 will long be remembered as a two-fold steamy Sunday by upwards of 100 proud parishioners at Our Lady of Grace Church in Johnston.
“Steamy…I’ll say it’s steamy,” said Joe Grasso, who sat under a large canopy tent talking with Julio Rontondo, 99, and his brother-in-law Joe Spremulli of Pannese Society fame. “It’s hotter than heck!”
There were actually two types of steam Sunday at OLG’s Festival Field, where the Roman Catholic Church – which is well known for its extraordinary social events – hosted its first-ever old-fashioned New England Clambake that included a history lesson of sorts from Rev. Peter J. Gower.
On a day when temperatures reached into the mid-90s, people enjoyed a delicious clambake that was prepared by Spencer Hackley of Spencer’s Clambakes and included everything from steamed little necks to lobster and corn on the cob that people covered with melted butter.
This bake, though, was prepared a little different than the ones Wampanoag Indians who taught settlers how to steam catch on the coastline now known as Cape Cod back in the 1700s.
“We didn’t dig a hole,” Hackley, the seasoned bakemaster, said. “We put down a layer of stones, and then added wood he burned and added layers of seaweed before placing all the food that was in screen-bottom wood baskets over the fire and covering it all with eight sheets of heavy canvas”
The fixings, as Father Gower called the foods, were wrapped in cheesecloth, covered with more seaweed and finally blanketed with seawater-soaked burlap sacks to keep in the steam that eventually cooks everything.
“It was a delicious meal and everyone had as much as they wanted,” said Father Gower. “We love our social gatherings here at OLG and we can’t wait for next year’s clambake.”
Sunday’s bake was also enhanced by music supplied by Cherry Hill Manor, and the day included 40 people winning raffle prizes as well as receiving gifts like sunglasses and Frisbees from Navigant Credit Union.