We Canadians are responsible for many discoveries and inventions advancing modern life such as the electron microscope, alkaline batteries, insulin, and more importantly, basketball, game shows, frozen fish, instant potato flakes, electric stoves and the Bloody Caesar.
All of these, except the Bloody Caesar, have been eagerly embraced by our American cousins. I wonder why, especially since its base, Clamato Juice, was invented in California by the Duffy-Mott Co.; well almost.
In 1969 Italian immigrant, Walter Chell, created the Bloody Caesar for the opening of Marco’s, a new Italian restaurant in Calgary. Its ingredients were based on those in the classic Linguine alle Vongole (pasta with clams) of Walter’s homeland. It was a hit, but his invention, preceding the ready-mixed Clamato Juice was laborious to make, having to squeeze all that juice out of the clams etc.
In the same year, by a suspicious coincidence, Duffy-Mott came out with Clamato Juice. Even though they eventually hired Walter Chell as consultant and spokesman, he never received any royalties for his creation which, given that Canadians consume over 30 million Bloody Caesars annually, is a lot of clams.
Why is the Bloody Caesar so popular here and virtually unknown there? Who knows, but whatever the reasons, I see this phenomenon as a reversal of the typical synergy between our two nations; they create something then we get to quietly exploit it; so quietly in fact that our achievement escapes their notice. Now, how Canadian is that, eh? Plus, it’s better than anything we ever got out of NAFTA. After two “stiff” ones we find ourselves not caring about NAFTA, which is perhaps the point. Although, I think Walter Chell might disagree.
So, in the spirit of reversal, I offer you Spaghetti alla Cesare, (Spaghetti alla Walter just didn’t sound right). This is pasta with a clam sauce based on the ingredients in Walter Chell’s classic Bloody Caesar. It’s an appropriate dish to celebrate Canada day with because:
(a) its colours are red and white, like our flag;
(b) it’s inspired by a uniquely Canadian beverage which should be our national drink;
(c) the Bloody Caesar was discovered by an Italian immigrant following in the tradition of other great Italian discoverers like, Cristoforo Colombo, Giovanni Caboto and Amerigo Vespucci after whom a little place called “America” was named.
Spaghetti alla Cesare
- 1½ cups Clamato juice (I like extra-spicy)
- 4 oz. vodka
- 1/3 cup reserved clam juice
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. small capers
- 1 ½ cups canned plum tomatoes seeded and medium diced (reserve juice for another use)
- ½ cup each finely diced: red onion, fennel bulb (or celery)
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 can each: surf clams and baby clams, drained and rinsed (reserve juice)
- 1 lb. imported spaghetti or linguine
- 2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste.
- cook pasta according to package directions
- in a deep skillet sauté vegetables except tomatoes, in butter and oil
- add tomatoes, capers and vodka, sauté for 5 min.
- add remaining liquid ingredients, and simmer uncovered while pasta cooks
- just before pasta is al dente, add clams to sauce, taste and adjust seasonings
- drain pasta, add to sauce in skillet off heat
- turn pasta, coating it with sauce, serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil or olio santo, garnish with parsley.
Loretta Gatto-White is a Nova Scotia food writer, columnist and essayist whose work has appeared in various newspapers, anthologies and on the internet at her site www.saveurfaire.net.