A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 09, 2012
“When the tide goes out, the table is set” (seafood harvesting adage)

"When the tide goes/is out, the table is set” is a seafood harvesting adage popular in the Pacific northwest. Razor clams, clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, seaweed, limpets and other sea plants had historically been gathered on the beach after a high tide.

‘When the tide is out, the table is set” has been cited in print since at least 1890, when it was used to describe the Puget Sound.


Wikipedia: Tlingit cuisine
The food of the Tlingit people, an indigenous people from Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon, is a central part of Tlingit culture, and the land is an abundant provider. A saying amongst the Tlingit is that “when the tide goes out the table is set”. This refers to the richness of intertidal life found on the beaches of Southeast Alaska, most of which can be harvested for food.
(...)
Beach seafood
The Tlingit gathered razor clams, clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, seaweed, limpets and other sea plants on the beach and they were normally cooked over an open fire or boiled. The heads of a small type of fish were boiled to a delicious broth that was good for colds.

3 September 1890, Tacoma (WA) News, ‘The Siwash and His Canoe” by C. A. Snowden, pg. 6, col. 2:
The waters of the Sound never fail to supply them with food. “When the tide is out the table is set,” is the saying of the old settler, and the Indian knows it even better than the white man.

21 April 1898, Saint Louis Christian Evangelist (St. Louis. MO), pg. 1:
... a “Klondike”’ that lies hidden in the placid waters of Puget Sound, consisting of fish, clams, oysters and so forth. “When the tide is out the table is set.”

Hathi Trust
June 1898, The Gentleman Farmer, “An Agricultural Reconnaissance of Alaska” by Walter H. Evans, pg. 495, col. 2:
Shell-fish also abound, so that the saying is “when the tide is out the table is set.”

29 April 1906, New York (NY) Times, “Small talk of Washington,” pg. 10:
“When the tide is out the table is set. I assure you that I ate clams and ate clams and ate clams until my stomach rose and fell in perfect harmony with the ebb and flow of the tide.”
(Francis W. Cushman, 1867-1909, a U.S. Representative from Washington—ed.)

18 November 1906, Morning Olympian (Olympia, WA), pg. 2, col. 1:
Washed-out railroad beds may cause a meat famine in the Puget Sound country, butthe supply of fish and ducks should increase abundantly. Then when the tide goes out the table is set with rock and butter clams, and “succulent bivalves,” as reporters that like to do fine writin’ call the oyster.

Google Books
Little Stories by Big Men
Compiled by Annabel Lee
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
1913
Pg. 150 ("Cushman Wit, the Real Fun of the House” by William A. Rodenberg):
“It was a most fortunate circumstance for me that in those days of panic and starvation I lived in the city of Tacoma on the shore of the ocean, because along the seashore there is always an abundance of raw clams. Whenever the tide is out, the table is set. And if Almighty God had not made that wise and beneficent provision, I would never have been able to have lived through that last Democratic Administration. And, sir, I pledge you my word, that during the last Administration of Grover Cleveland, I ate clams, and ate clams, and ate clams until my stomach rose and fell in harmony with the tides.”
(Francis W. Cushman, 1867-1909, a U.S. Representative from Washington—ed.)

29 April 1917, Seattle (WA) Sunday Times, pg. 5, col. 3 classified ad:
OLYMPIA FARM AND CLAM BEACH. Your table is set when the tide goes out.

Google News Archive
7 March 1937, The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), “Ten Years in Western Lane” (editorial), pg. 6, col. 2:
They say that movie stars and magnates are now competing for frontage on the choicest lakes, and the elusive gospels of progress and prosperity are being widely preached—though there are still many there who still live by the simple creed that “when the. tide goes out the table is set.”

Google Books
Indians of the Northwest Coast
By Philip Drucker
Garden City, NY: Natural History Press
1955
Pg. 2:
The sea also provided a tremendous quantity of edible mollusks; “when the tide goes out the table is set,” as the saying goes.

4 November 1981, North Island Gazette (Port Hardy, BC), “Strait talk” by Tex Lyon, pg. 24, col. 2:
So, as we used to say, when the tide goes out, the table is set, and the gulls, and shorebirds will have a banquet, when all this kelp is high and dry.

Google News Archive
26 April 1995, North Island Gazette (Port Hardy, BC) “Channel 78 Eh” with Bruce Burrows, pg. 12, col. 2:
I’ve heard First Nations people use the phrase “when the tide goes out the table is set.” If so, the area around Laredo Sound is the biggest and best smorgasbord in the world.

New York (NY) Times
Alaska Helps Elderly Residents Tell Their Stories
By SAM HOWE VERHOVEK
Published: December 23, 2001
SITKA, Alaska, Dec. 19— Al Gordon, a 78-year-old Tlingit Indian, has plenty of stories to tell about Alaska, including many about how he managed to live much of his life off the land and the icy sea.

‘’Why, as soon as the tide goes out, your table is set,’’ Mr. Gordon explained. ‘’Clams and cockles and mussels, and all kinds of fish.’’

Puget Sound Business Journal
Growing Nisqually tribal business makes waves
Premium content from Puget Sound Business Journal by Jeanne Lang Jones
Date: Sunday, May 31, 2009, 9:00pm PDT - Last Modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009, 11:59am PDT
(...)
In the old days, tribal members restricted their shellfish harvest to waters through which they could wade.

They had a saying: “The dinner table is set when the tide goes out.”

Google Books
Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, Volume 1
Edited by Ken Albala
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC
2011
Pg. 233:
The Tlingit of southern Alaska and the Yukon have a saying, “When the tide goes out, the table is set,” which illustrates this people’s heavy reliance on the sea for their primary diet. Among the foods available for harvest on the beach are razor clams, mussels, seaweed, oysters, abd crabs.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, August 09, 2012 • Permalink