Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eatin' Oysters

I couldn’t find a digitally saved picture of the sound near where I grew up and where oysters are raised, but this shot of Cape Lookout is of a similar terrain (with the addition of a lighthouse). The small tidal creeks in the sound are perfect breeding grounds for oysters. The second photo shows two types of oyster knives, presented on the traditional oyster shucking table cloth (that is if you don't have a table built just for the purpose, out of tin roofing).

My mouth began to water for a juicy oyster after reading about having ‘em on the half-shell in a restaurant review by Kelly the Culinarian in her blog. Kelly had stopped by my blog yesterday and so I returned the favor and was reminded that by this time next week, I may be enjoying some good Carolina oysters. I just hope the weather has been cool enough for the season to open. The idea of eating oysters in the months in where there is an “r” (September-April) appears to be a thing of the past, perhaps another example of global warming. You want the water to be cold enough to deter bacteria before you indulge in the delicacy. Growing up where I did, oysters were a stable. We always had oyster stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve just wasn’t right without steaming a bushel. One New Year’s Eve, when I was living in Western North Carolina, I’d come home from Christmas with a bushel of oysters for a New Year’s Eve party. We were eating steamed oysters outdoors; the party was at my uncles. I almost broke a tooth when I bit into a beautiful black pearl. At the time, I thought that if anything came out of the date I had for the evening, I’d have the pearl made into a necklaces. Well, there wasn’t any spark there, and soon we were dating other people although we remained friends, which was a good thing according to my uncle who wasn’t sure what to make of the lady who could eat as many oysters as us guys (normally the women-folk stayed inside while the guys when outside to steam oysters and washed them down with some sort of alcohol). I’m not sure whatever became of my pearl.

I’ve even eaten my share of oysters raw, including times when harvesting ‘em, I’d take a nice oyster, swirl it around in the water to wash off the mud, then pop it open with an oyster knife and enjoy. That said, being landlocked like I am now, mine’s one of the few homes in the Upper Midwest to boast a set of oyster knives. With that in mind, let me share with you a story that may cure your desire ever to eat a raw oyster.

Eatin’ Oysters

I was at a conference down in Florida when I was working with the Boy Scouts. One evening, another guy and I had gone out to a bar. It was a nice place that had a patio built out over a lake, somewhere north of Gainesville. I don’t even remember the name of the guy I was with, but he was from East Tennessee. Seeing they had oysters on the half-shell, he confessed he’d never tried them. I ordered a dozen and told him I’d share, that he should have the experience. The waitress brought out the platter, oysters nicely presented on ice, with sliced lemons and some horseradish in a dish in the center. The first one, I slurped down, without any condiments. Then I showed how he could put horseradish or lemon juice or hot sauce on the mussel, before eating. After I’d consumed about half the platter, he decided he’d try one. He popped the oyster in his mouth, started gagging, and immediately spit it back into the shell. I encouraged him to try again and he did, pulling enough horseradish on it to clean not only sinuses but also a clogged drain. He then chased it with a beer, forcing it down. “That’s enough,” he said, “I can now say that I’ve eaten an oyster.” I went on to eat the rest, leaving the one partly consumed oyster sitting on the tray.

In the bar were others who were attending the same conference, including one of our colleagues, a first-class jerk. I think he was from New Jersey. I may be wrong but with his manners, he couldn’t have been a native southerner. For those of us who sat in the back, this guy became the blunt of all our jokes. He knew everything, or so he thought. He continually vied with the instructor to teach the course and we joked about why, if he was so damn smart, he was even in our class. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly happy that evening when he walked over to our table and greeted us like we were his long lost friends. Standing by our table, we didn't offer him a seat, he spied the one lone (regurgitated) oyster. Without asking and before we could say anything, he reached for it as he proclaimed his love for shellfish. Then, in one motion, he slurped it down. We burst into laugher and right then, I knew there is a God and that sometimes we do get to experience justice here on earth.


  1. I hadn't had oysters in a long time, and had some recently . . . just like you say, some horseradish and lemon and a slurp!

    And I love the story about the jerk! Justice, karma, whatever you want to call it . . . proof that God does have a sense of humor!

    p.s. your story about oysters growing up reminds me of The Old Man and The Boy

  2. I love them in dressing and I like them fried - but not raw....ew.

  3. That is hysterical. Thanks Sage--I love raw oysters--and I'm a NorthEaster--I mean thanks for making me not want to eat them anymore

  4. Diane, I'm glad to see you make connections with "The Old Man and the Boy"--growing up, I'm sure I was probably a lot more like the boyhood Raurk, but I really wanted to be more like Curley in Owen's "The Ballard of the Flim-Flam Man!"

    Kenju, Fried oysters, Calabash sytle?

    Pia, if there is a reason not to eat 'em, it's the danger from pollution. But they're good. I generally perfer mine steamed

  5. Believe it or not, I have never tried oysters. It's not high on my to do list, but now I feel like I should at least try one...most definitely steamed, not raw.

  6. Thanks for the shout out! Lovely post, I'm glad I inspired.

  7. bottom feeders do come in handy, as your story shows.
    good to see you again, sage

  8. There used to be a narrow restaurant where I once libved in the Southwest called "Shells" and this story brought me back tomany fine times there!

  9. Never had the desire to eat an oyster...not a fan of food from the sea. I really try to be, but just can't make it happen.

    David's comment is highly amusing. So did you guys fill him in on what he had enjoyed so much? Too funny

  10. I've not had so many oysters, but have enjoyed them in places like Seattle, fresh from the sea and similarly in Boston. If you close your eyes, theres that real feeling of the force of the sea when slurping!

    Now London, England is more of a 'cockles and mussels' kind of place.


    Hiya - today Michele sent me over!


  11. Scarlet-and you live so close to the coast!

    Kelly, thank you!

    David, "bottom feeders," love the double meaning here, good job.

    Michael, there use to be a place near where I grew up called Uncle Kirbys--they had tin tables with holes in the middle (where you threw your shells into a pail underneath). They'd bring out steamed oysters by the bushel, dump 'em on the table and you got to eat till your heart was content or your stomach was full.

    Kontan, oh yeah, we told him and everyone!

    Rashbre, If I ever get to London, I'll check them out, but first I'm going to eat my fill of fish and chips!

  12. SO he got his 'just desserts" even if it was an oyster

  13. Oh now that was funny!!! Thanks for sharing.

    I have not eaten raw oysters either. Won't...and now I will have this little story to relay. Cool.

    Here via Michele

  14. Justice indeed, Sage. Very funny story. I've never tried an oyster, and don't intend to try one raw. I might be encouraged to try one steamed.

  15. Star--yes, partly consumed desserts!

    Dawn, thanks for stopping, glad you liked the story.

    Dan, they're great steamed!

  16. Now that story is just priceless!

    Sadly, I don't think it has been cold enough yet. We had one little cold spell last week, but that was all. It's pretty warm again now.