David Berger says he decided to write a comprehensive guide to razor clams because no one else had.
During two library lectures in Aberdeen and Westport on Saturday, he will share insights and anecdotes from his research and his long-held passion for Grays Harbor’s signature mollusk.
“We’d always had a lot of questions — and, as my wife likes to say, we didn’t have little questions, we had big questions,” he says. “So finally coming to terms with that and wanting to answer some of those questions is what inspired me to write the book.”
A scroll through Amazon’s offerings brings up mostly cookbooks and a few other assorted topics. But Berger’s “Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest” appears to be, in fact, the only single tome that covers everything from history to how-tos. It includes chapters on ecology and anatomy, tribal treaties, clamming techniques for shovels versus tubes, and of course cooking tips and recipes.
The Seattle resident has made his living mostly doing writing and communications. He once received a fellowship from the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting.
Berger especially enjoyed researching the history of the term “clam gun,” which originally referred to the shovel — not the tube. But “that’ll get you into a fight faster than just about anything else on the beach,” he laughs. “It’s like living history, if you will, because you can still see the meaning of the word being forged in real time.”
During his library talks on Saturday, one of his topics will be the inventor of the razor-clamming tube: James E. Batstone of Shelton, who filed the patent in 1957. Berger had to do some serious digging to find that information, as described in his book.
“One of my missions is to rescue that gentleman from obscurity, because the razor-clam tube did transform the activity,” he says.
Berger has been clamming for nearly 30 years. “In the old days, Fish and Wildlife used to do programs about it on the beach, and that piqued my interest,” he says.
Now, he tries to go at least twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. “There’s something almost ritualistic about it.”
Berger’s presentations will last roughly 40 minutes each, plus time for a Q&A session. He also will be selling and signing his books there.
The programs are co-sponsored by Humanities Washington, the Friends of the Aberdeen Timberland Library and the Friends of the Westport Timberland Library.
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Aberdeen Timberland Library, 121 E. Market St.
Westport Timberland Library, 101 E. Harms Drive