Woodman’s of Essex Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Fried Clam
Summertime may mean burgers and hot dogs to some, but to Wendy Viator, the first born of the fourth generation of Woodmans, it means fried clams. Daughter of Judi Woodman and Peter Lane, Wendy grew up around the family business, and has fond memories of spending her Sunday mornings counting and banding money from Woodman’s weekly haul with her grandfather Dexter Woodman. This July 3 marks the 100th anniversary of the first fried clam, Woodman’s claim to fame, just in time for the annual July 4th festivities.
While Woodman’s of Essex celebrated its own 100th anniversary back in 2014, the first clam allegedly wasn’t fried until 1916. Chubby and Bessie Woodman took so much pride in their newfound product that they even wrote “fried the first fried clam” on their marriage certificate. But despite the bold proclamation, restaurants in the area today are still fishing for the original fried clam title.
Ahead, a quick catchup with Wendy Viator:
You guys celebrated Woodman’s 100th anniversary back in 2014. Any special plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the fried clam this weekend?
We do. We have all kinds of things going on and they can all be found on our Facebook page. On Saturday we’re going to be giving away free fried clams from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or until they’re gone, and they’re donated by our vendors.
Are there any other places out there that you know of claiming that they were actually the first ones to fry the clam?
I know that there’s a place that claims that they were the first ones to fry a clam, but we actually claim that we’re the first ones to deep fry a clam. I’m not sure [what restaurant claims that], but it may have been in Newburyport. I should really know that.
What’s the key to a great fried clam?
It has to be fried in lard.
If you weren’t eating fried clams, what would we likely see you munching on?
Fried lobster tail—they are to die for. You eat them plain, but they’re deep fried just like the clams in cornflower.
How many fried clams would you say Woodman’s sells on a typical weekend?
Oh gosh, I’m trying to think of how many gallons they say. This thing that we did a couple years ago said 1,544,440 in a year, but on an average day it’s about 35 gallons of fried clams.
What do you think Chubby and Bessie Woodman would think of Woodman’s today?
You know something, my father says that all the time. Every time I have him for dinner he says “What do you think Chubby would think of all this?” I think that he would be over the top thrilled, and it’s probably way beyond his wildest dreams. I don’t think he could’ve ever imagined this.
OK, lastly, if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?