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Jun 13, 2008 02:06 AM

What is your birthday tradition?

I am just finishing 3 days of birthday celebration (Last night was a Peruvian feast at a neighbors.) here on the coast of Maine. But on the eleventh, my birthday, it is tradition to either go to a beach or more recently our lakeside cabin and have a traditional clam bake. We begin w/ crab salad on crackers and Pilsner Urquell beer (Always Urquel) on the dock. When time for dinner, into the pot goes potatoes, lobster, clams (soft shell) and corn on the cob. When cooked, we sit at a picnic table on the dock and dig in with potato salad, cole slaw on the side and a bottle of bubbly to wash it all down. We finish off the evening w/ strawberry short cake. This year, things have been hectic and we decided to go out to camp (local jargon for cabin), spend the afternoon relaxing in the sun and on the way home stop by a local lobster shack. When we got to the restaurant, Ruth & Wimpies, they had just run out of clams! We substituted fried clams as a a starter, and ordered lobster w/ mussels and corn on the cob. The fried clams were fair, the lobster very small, the mussels ok and the corn tasted old. Ruth and Wimpies is noted for their pies but, that night had no strawberry or other fruit pies, so we got none. I'm not usually a fussy eater, but I was so disappointed! I realize now what a tradition preparing our own Downeast clam bake had become. Do you have a tradition with birthday foods? Tell us.

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  1. Hmmmm clam bake! i've always want to go/have one! I'm sorry to hear your latest bday ritual wasn't up to par to your home-cooked clam bakes.

    In Filipino tradition, we make pancit- rice noodles with shrimp, chicken, chinese sausage, fishballs, some veggies like sliced carrots, celery, onion,=well at least that's the way my mother makes it. The noodles are to represent long-life. Even now, as I'm getting older, I still ask my mom to make it, even if I'm going to dinner with my SO or friends. I remember the first year I didn't have it- my freshman year of college when I was away from home. I was super sad about it, and like you didn't realize how special the dish was, as well as being away from my family.

    Another birthday tradition, but one that has gone extinct for me- the Carvel cake. Oh man, I remember having GIANT Carvel cakes at my birthday parties when I was a kid and how happy I was that half of the cake would be left over- dessert for a week at least after my birthday!

    2 Replies
    1. re: teamuse

      On a recent birthday, I bought a Carvel Fudgie the Whale cake ... you can't go home ... it was horribly sweet.

      These days ... Chez Panisse ... I have my birthday at Chez Panisse ... downstairs ... the big dinner.

      I also buy a different whole cake for that day ... I rarely buy more than a piece ... I think I'm downgrading to a cupcake this year.

      For various reasons, I am birthday'd out. I just like to treat myself to something that makes me happy. Ditto for the SO. I buy him what will make him happy.

      Growing up it was the traditional white birthday cake. My mom's birthday was 9/24, parents were married 9/27 and my birthday ... years later was 9/28. It was a lot of cake that week. Each event required a separate cake.

      1. re: rworange

        "On a recent birthday, I bought a Carvel Fudgie the Whale cake ... you can't go home ... it was horribly sweet."
        i've posted several times about the tragic downward spiral of the quality at carvel. it's truly awful now. so sad.

    2. It's funny you bring up this topic-- my husband's birthday is tomorrow (June 14, Flag Day) and growing up, he always had a Flag cake (the cake itself might be yellow or white, but ALWAYS blueberries, strawberries and white frosting making the American Flag on top.) I made him one last year, violating my own "rule" about not buying strawberries until we can get local ones or have them in our own patch.
      I myself as a child always had a Boston Cream Pie for my birthday (Mmmm! I still love it, with the cool creamy custard in between and the fudgy frosting!) while everyone else in my family insisted on this particular carrot cake for their birthdays (it's a scarily decadent recipe that uses oil, no raisins, and 8 cups of grated
      In my family growing up, the birthday boy or girl sometimes chose a place to eat dinner out. Because we didn't eat out very often, we didn't really have a vast repertoire to choose from, but I remember choosing to go into Boston to the European, a classic North End place, for pizza. (I don't think it's open any more.)
      Now that we have a son (only 5 mos.) I've been thinking a lot about traditions, and just yesterday, I bought a special brightly glazed plate at our local Artists' shop, with the idea of starting a tradition of our own: Whatever the cake of choice, the birthday boy (or girl) gets their slice on this special plate. I was contemplating breaking with tradition and making my husband a pineapple upside down cake (which he also loves), but I think you have reminded me how important tradition is-- he'll be pleasantly surprised, I think, to get a Flag Cake after all.

      4 Replies
      1. re: missoulagrace

        Oh! The European! I was just thinking about that place yesterday. Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, my family used to go there rather frequently for pizza. We went often enough that the host,(do you rememer that guy? Very distinguished.), came to remember us. We stopped going at some point. Years later, when I was probably in college, we stopped in and the host remembered us! We were flabbergasted. They closed, sadly, I think in the late 90's. They auctioned everything off and my brother is now the proud owner of one of their booths. The distinguished host resurfaced for quite some time at the Union Oyster House. He seemed ageless to me. I loved that place. Thanks for letting me share my memories.

        1. re: hilltowner

          Thanks for sharing them! Tell me... (it sounds like you were there as more of an adult than I)... was the pizza as great as I remember? And what was the name of the other classic North End place one might have gone for coffee and pastry after? Across the street, maybe?

          1. re: missoulagrace

            As I recall, it was pretty much classic Boston pizza, similar to Regina if you ever get back to Boston. I loved it, but honestly, it has probably been close to 15 years since I had it. The pastry place you are thinking of is probably Mikes. We always went there after dinner for cannollis. It could also have been Modern, but most people from out of town tended to go to Mikes.

            1. re: hilltowner

              Pizzeria Regina....I haven't heard/thought of/uttered that phrase in a long time!
              It's funny... no one in Montana seems to know how to make pizza. Pretty much classic Boston pizza.... (sigh) seems like such a lost and special thing to me now! Sorry to go off on such a tangent, but there also used to be a pizza place on that street at the bottom of Beacon Hill, near the pub the Sevens, that served late night slices? I have literally salivated and closed my eyes many times wishing for a slice, folded in half...

      2. I like to spend the month of my birthdsay eating food I don' normally eat in my lifestyle of fitness and working out.

        We break the weekends up. One weekend, we go to pizza night at my local favorite health food place. This isn't traditional pizza, but it isn't healthy! A huge deep crust topped with my choice of fresh veggies. Real cheese, fabulous fresh sauce. I usually get eggplant, toasted garlic, tomoto, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and more. A "single serving" is the size of my torso, I swear!

        One weekend, I go out for a pancake and biscuit gorge. I try and get three cakes, each a different flavor on the menu. I may go to the griddle in LA this year-no biscuits,there ,though. then we go for a huge hike or bike ride to burn carbs.

        One weekend, my husband takes me out somewhere nice. A good place.

        One of those weekends, my husband uses a small deep pizza pan to make me a giant triple chocolate chip cookie (white, milk, dark) and we top it with ginger rosewater ice-cream from our favorite Persian ice cream place. Oh yum! I deny myself any sort of cookie for a month or two before, just so it tastes even better!

        The last weekend is sort of a wild card. Gotta have some unpredictability!

        My husband is a leap year baby, and so every time he actually gets to have his real birthday, we do somehing special. I make something interesting with lamb to feed the crowd at his party/homebrewign event. this year I smoked a leg after letting it sit in a morocan rub. Wrapped that baby in garlic and let it smoke in my offset smoker for a few good hours. then I made a 3 layer fresh pumpkin spice cake from scratch. I also made katchapouri, cous cous salad, a blue cheese cheesecake, and a simple green salad.

        So for him, the tradition every four years is special lamb and some large cake. Of course, we celebrate for him every year, but the leap years are special.

        1. happy belated!

          i'm not big on celebrating my own birthday - i usually just organize the festivities for everyone else's :)

          but as a child, it was family tradition to special-order a carvel ice cream cake. all chocolate, extra fudge, extra crunchies...and decorated with whichever superhero, cartoon character, or theme was en vogue at the moment.

          2 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Those crunchies really made the cake special, didn't they? I was saddened to read upthread that the cakes are no longer as good. They're a favorite childhood memory - my parents only very rarely bought an ice cream cake. My mom was a fabulous baker, and her cakes really were better. But Carvel cakes seemed more exciting somehow!

            1. re: Catskillgirl

              yep, we loooved the crunchies.

              alas, the magic is no more. a couple of years ago i ordered one for a friend, to fulfill an unrealized childhood dream of his - while he'd had carvel cakes, he'd never gotten "fudgie the whale," and had always wanted one. so i special-ordered it for him the way my family always did - with extra crunchies and extra fudge inside, plus an extra cup of each on the side.

              i have to confess, i was almost excited as he was - it had been years since i'd had carvel ice cream cake. well, my first bite turned out to be my last. it was truly awful. the ice cream was mealy, with a bland flavor reminiscent of freezer burn. the icing - which had always been one of my favorite parts - tasted remarkably like a blend of plastic and cardboard. and the crunchies...oh, those beloved crunchies. they were stale and bitter, like eating gravel that had been flavored with old, cheap cocoa powder.

              this guy [the "birthday boy"] will gladly eat practically anything, quality & nutritional value be damned. [if necessary, he'd be perfectly happy subsisting on frozen pigs in blankets, ramen noodles, & ben & jerry's.] and yes, he did finish the piece i cut for him. he even finished off mine after i took that one regrettable bite. but then he did something completely out of character, something i've NEVER seen him do... he left the rest of the cake behind, and never came back to get it.

              that thing sat in my freezer, untouched, for DAYS. i finally tossed it after about a week...and he eventually confessed that even HE had thought it was pretty crappy, but had eaten it for nostalgia's sake.

          2. Happy Birthday to ME!! Today is actually my birthday and I've been reading the wonderful traditions and remembering the years past. For many years I also had Boston Cream Pie, which was one of my Mother's best dishes, and my all time favorite. Now, as an adult I've spent many past BD's having a choice of dinner options, at a favorite restaurant. I usually do all the cooking in the house, so this is a true treat for me. I also try to pick a place that serves something that I wouldn't normally fix myself.

            Tonight, unfortunately, I've got three sick kids, (all with flu symptoms), so we're staying in, but I'm fixing Surf & Turf, with some nice steaks and jumbo shrimps. We'll celebrate out another time.

            So, to all of you celebrating I wish you many, many more years of favorite traditions. May we all have peace, prosperity, and good health.

            3 Replies
            1. re: othervoice

              Happy BD. Our daughter turned 21 last Sunday. The 23 year old still gets Boston cream pie.
              I've got 10 lbs. of soft shell clams for steamers w/ artichoke & corn on the cob (maybe some asperagras to.) My wife said with a smile, "What is this, the fourth night of celebration?"
              I used to make Ice box cakes in fanciful shapes for the kids when they were little. They chose the theme, I made the cake; superman shield, castle, dinosaur, a snake etc.
              Hope everyone feels better.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Thanks so much for the sentiments. I know my Mom is sending me a large BCP straight from heaven. Your daughter's a lucky girl to have such thoughtful parents.

                1. re: othervoice

                  JMJ! We got 5 kids from Seoul to Costa Rica to Austin to Maine. First time they will be home together in 5 years. The cabin will be packed and fun!