It sounds like the premise for a television series: Four friends from different backgrounds take up a hobby during the pandemic as a way to stay close to one another and find a new passion that changes their lives.
But Stephanie Pinerio, Cheryl Horsfall, Alex Pressland and Claire Weinraub are not fictional characters. They are the Clamity Janes, a collective of women who scour the North Fork’s waters for clams.
“Instead of raising backyard chickens or making sourdough starter, we decided to start clamming,” said Pinerio, the founder of Shed Textile Company in Southold.
Pressland, who’s originally from London and works in technology, had never clammed before moving to the United States and did it as a way of staying connected to her friends in the early days of the lockdown.
“I think especially over the pandemic, everyone was looking for something they could do in a bubble,” she said. “They became my bubble.”
Weinraub, a television prodcuer, became an official Clamity Jane after going clamming at low tide at 4:30 a.m. with the group.
“They didn’t think I’d actually show up,” she said. “So when I showed up, that sealed my place in the group.”
The women started clamming as a hobby, but have a vested interest in supporting the aquaculture of the North Fork, regularly volunteering and donating to local groups like Cornell Cooperative Extension and Long Island Oyster Restoration Project.
“We support the local baymen and baywomen and support people and products who are doing their part to foster the economy and our maritime culture,” said Horsfall, a copywriter who splits her time between the North Fork and the New York City. “But mostly we clam for friendship and food and fun. We love what we do. We love clamming.”
The Clamity Janes currently operate under personal clamming licenses, but as a group of enterprising women with backgrounds in advertising and business, they have some tentative plans in the works to go in a more commercial direction. The Janes’ website is filled with information for beginner clammers, as well as details on how to support North Fork aquaculture. And while they aren’t ready to share anything official just yet, they’re hoping to announce a product or two via their Instagram in the coming weeks and months.
“Gastronomically, I think the clam is the forgotten superstar of what the North Fork can offer,” Pressland said. “Think of all the different ways you can enjoy it and all the different applications it has, raw and cooked. There’s a lot that we can say about how to enjoy the best of what the North Fork can offer from its bays.”
The name “Clamity Janes” came from what Pinerio calls a summer clamming calamity.
“Cheryl was away for the weekend,” recalled Pinerio. “She had friends staying at her house, so she asked me to take them out clamming.” Pinerio and Weinraub took Horsfall’s friends out on the water, where Weinraub accidentally lost the contents of her clam basket and Pinerio somehow impaled her leg on her clamming rig. Horsfall heard the chaotic tale and being an advertising copywriter, came up with the punny name for the group.
The Clamity Janes are also preparing the next generation of clammers. Weinraub’s 5-year-old daughter, Josephine, has even come up with a song for the group after clamming with them: “Musty clam, musty clam, if you have feet don’t go away. Musty clam, musty clam, come into the basket and play!”