The Beatles, A Girl Scout Badge, Acres of Clams, and A Copycat Recipe

When I was a little girl in grade school, I remember many spring and summer vacations spent in Seattle. Locked into my memory my earliest visit to Seattle was when my mother and I took the train to visit the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. 

My mother's "kid" sister, Nancy had taken a job teaching fourth grade with the Seattle School District. At the time Aunt Nancy was young and single and loved showing us around Seattle. She was cool. She was so cool that when the Beatles had a concert in Seattle in 1964, Aunt Nancy drove us as close as she could to where the Liverpool quartet was staying at the Edgewater Inn. We never saw the famous "mop-tops" but we saw their limos arriving and parked at the hotel. Afterward, she drove us to the closest Bartells Drug Store so we could buy Beatle and Seattle souvenirs. 

My favorite childhood memory of visiting Seattle was one day out and about shopping with Mom, while Dad went to the Seattle waterfront to "taste test" which vendor on the piers had the best fish and chips, and clam chowder. If I remember right, the story goes that Dad tasted three different orders of fish and chips and clam chowder, hailing Ivars on Pier 54 as the ultimate winner. The following day our family dined inside of Ivars restaurant on the waterfront. I still have the original kid's menu - a mask that resembled deep sea diver headgear. 

Today, my sisters and I often visit Ivar's Pier 54 Outdoor Fish Bar for fish, fries, and chowder while enjoying family memories. 

Girl Scout Cooking Badge from the 1960s

A framed kid's menu from Ivar's memory wall 

Jump ahead a few years later when I became a Girl Scout. Dad helped me earn my cooking badge. One of his lessons was the importance of herbs and spices in cooking. We often tried to create our favorite dishes from some of our favorite restaurants. And one of them was what we thought would be close to Ivar's Clam Chowder. 

Now, it's important to remember during this time there were no "copycat" recipes from the internet because there was no internet. I know! Right? Can you believe it?

Also, Ivars was not selling their clam chowder to the local supermarkets like they're successfully doing now. Following our visit to Ivars in the 1960s, our family clam chowder recipe became a tradition that we enjoyed on Christmas Eve and a tradition that I have continued for many years in my own home. 

In later years when I visited "copycat" recipe sites for Ivar's clam chowder, Dad and  I  sure came close with our creation. The only ingredient we did not use was sugar. Who knew there was a small amount of sugar in the clam chowder recipe. However, I tasted the chowder before and after the sugar was added, and I have to admit there is a pleasant difference with that small addition of sugar. Ivar's wasn't the only chowder recipe I found with the addition of sugar, but I also found sugar as an ingredient in an old New England clam chowder recipe. 

Today I prepare this recipe off the top of my head, but here are the basics that I still use - and once in a while, I have to review the recipe to ensure I have included all the important ingredients. 

We still have a few more weeks of winter to enjoy a bowl of comfort food, but then again if you love clam chowder, you can enjoy this recipe 365 days of the year. This is also one of those recipes you can add more or less when it comes to clams, potatoes, vegetables... If you prefer, you may also leave out the bacon. 

Chopped and ready to cook


3-4 slices of thick-cut bacon

2 (6.5 oz) cans chopped clams (I prefer Snows brand as it is easily available)

1 cup finely chopped onion (white or yellow)

1 cup finely chopped celery (Add a few celery leaves for extra flavor and color)

2 cups diced potatoes, (Russet or Yukon)

3/4 cups butter 

3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

4 cups half-and-half  

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1 dash of freshly ground pepper (to taste)

1 tsp of dried thyme

1/2 tsp sugar

Chop the bacon into "lardon" size pieces and fry until lightly crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Set bacon aside reserving about 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat into the soup pot (Dutch oven). 

  • Open the canned clams and drain the juice into the soup pot. Set the reserved clams aside. To the clam juice add the onions, celery, potatoes, and enough water or stock (fish, vegetable, or chicken) to cover, if necessary. Simmer covered over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan melt butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and cook until it becomes a roux. Gradually whisk the half-and-half into the roux. Cook on low heat while whisking, until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. 
  • Pour the finished roux and half-and-half into the soup pot with the cooked vegetables and liquid. Add salt, pepper, thyme, sugar, and most importantly don't forget the clams. (If you prefer your chowder texture thinner, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of milk and/or clam broth.) Stir well, continue to heat, and adjust seasonings to taste if necessary. 
  • A sample right from the soup pot
  • Optional: When serving top the bowl of chowder with a sprinkle of paprika, fresh parsley, and a pat of butter. Serve with oyster crackers. 
  • Wine Recommendation: Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, or even a crisp bubbly. 


  1. Looks Fabulous ❣️

  2. What a great memories and a delicious recipe! thank you.


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