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Clam dip and the coonhound

January 23rd, 2010

As I whipped up some clam dip this afternoon, for a special gathering, I was reminded of Babe, the Black and Tan Coonhound that befriended us this past Christmas.

It was cold and rainy, when we pulled up to the Water Valley Inn the night of December 26. Perched on a hill overlooking miles of rolling farmland, the 1920s-era farmhouse is our home-away-from-home, when we visit our daughter and her family, whose Owl Creek Winery and vineyards are just down the road.

As our son, Charlie, stepped out of the car, he was greeted by a wagging, wriggling, seal-soft hound that cried and whimpered as if he was her long lost master. Since she was wearing a collar, we hoped we might coax her into the house so that we could read her tag. But when we opened the door, she trotted right in, then stood looking at us with her tail wagging, as if to say, “Welcome home.”

Her tag told us that her name was Babe. While we waited for her owner to return our call, Babe wandered into the kitchen, where I found her standing politely but deliberately in front of a cabinet. She wasn’t exactly pointing, because her lovely, long tail was arched upward and her front end was erect, but I knew that she knew that there was food in the cabinet.

She was a young dog who had obviously never missed a meal – sleek and fit and of unmistakeable quality. Not to be inhospitable - and who knew, after all, how long she had been lost - I mixed up a “pudding” for her from bread, milk, raw egg and a can of minced clams, left over from the holiday dip.

I’ve received rave reviews from friends and family, but no one has ever relished my clam dip the way that Babe did that clam pudding. When she was finished, she followed me back into the parlor and sat at my feet while I stroked her long, velvety ears.

Early the next morning, Babe’s owner called. He lives not far from the Water Valley Inn, which it turns out is one of Babe’s haunts. She’s a favorite with all the guests.

When we returned home to Texas, I googled Black and Tan Coonhound to see if they are all as personable as Babe. Here’s what I learned from AKC:

One of the few All-American breeds, the Black and Tan Coonhound is a persistent, determined, honest hunter who will stay on track no matter the terrain or conditions. His name developed from his color and purpose – his coat is coal black with tan markings, and he is used to trail and tree raccoon.

Outgoing and friendly, the Black and Tan Coonhound likes to be with his family. Most are laid back in the house, but require moderate daily exercise on leash or in a fenced area. Their instincts may lead them to chase and tree small animals and bark, so training is important. Their short coat requires minimal maintenance.

As a bonus, I’ve renamed my dip “Babe’s Clam Dip” and here’s the recipe (not to be confused with Babe’s Clam Pudding):
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, minced (can substitute garlic powder)
1 teaspoon Worchestershire
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Splash of lemon juice
2 small cans minced clams, drain and reserve liquid
1 teaspoon dried parsley or fresh (1 T.)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Using a mixer, stir together the cream cheese and sour cream. When smooth, add the seasonings and 2 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved clam liquid (to get the consistency that you like). Fold in the drained clams and serve with chips.