Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's So Much More Than An Oyster

For those of us that prefer briny Apalachicola oysters, the time is now!  The adage that oysters should be eaten during fall and winter months, and contain the letter "R", is a rule for many.  The months of November, December, and January are my personal favorite time for oysters.  Growing up on the gulf coast, I can attest that the rule of thumb is spot on!

In the 1970s and 80s, I would venture out to the boat landings and greet the oyster men (and women) after their long day of tonging.  The salt air was crisp, the tide low, and the thought of oysters and beer consumed me.  For this meant, the next several hours would be spent with family and friends telling stories and eating some of the best oysters on earth.

The oysters were cold, muddy, and placed in large brown croacker sacks. The oyster men unloaded their wooden boats and placed the sacks into their pickup trucks.  From there, they would drive and deliver to local wholesale and retail fish houses.  To bypass the stores and get the goods became a story in itself.
In fact, on one fall day my sunburn and smile was the simple exchange for a half-bushel.  After that day, the joke was "send her to get the oysters"! 

Once home, Mom and I would prepare a tray of hot (and hotter) sauce, many sleeves of saltines, fresh lemons, and pics.  I clearly remember the squeak of the cooler opening, the beer tab popping, and all of the glorious sensations that come with eating oysters during the "R" months.  The hot sauce hit my chapped lips only to be  cooled by a beer at arms' length.   As the oyster juice dripped from my gloves, I practiced the art of being a perfect shucker.  Shucking an oyster has nothing to do with strength.  Both, a sharp and a correctly angled Oyster Knife help; however, this is an art.  If you have ever ordered oysters in a restaurant you know that some remain attached to the shell or may have a bit of grit. This, a pet peeve.

I still love Apalachicola oysters whether shucking myself or eating at a raw bar.  Over the years some things have changed.  We have different neighbors on St. George Island, family members have passed away, and I now purchase Apalachicola oysters at Whole Foods in Johns Creek, GA. 

Thankfully, some things have remained the same.  I visit family in Apalachicola, the oyster men are busy tonging the bay, and I pine for moments shared over beer and the best oysters on earth!


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