Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The World is My Oyster

...Which I with sword will open.— William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor

So many of my good food memories are associated with eating oysters. I can't remember eating them before I went to college at St. Mary's in Southern Maryland, but I know my mother's family loved raw oysters, so I am sure I must have.

St. Mary's had its own oyster beds in the St. Mary's River, and after regattas at college, we'd have big oyster feasts. The scuba club would dive for fresh oysters and we'd either eat them raw or steam them on a big grill. I still remember a big oyster party after the first-ever intercollegiate Windsurfing Regatta in the US.
Later on, when I worked at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I learned all about harvesting oysters under sail on skipjacks, about the buyboats, and the whole oystering culture. I also ate plenty of fresh-from-the-Bay oysters during my tenure there.

After college, my best college friend, Mr. G and I would meet up between Christmas and New Years and eat oysters, a tradition we continue until today. Mr. G and I have been friends through thick and thin and back again. It's over plates of oysters and many beers that we've kept this easy friendship going.
I still have a scar on one hand from trying to shuck oysters more than 20 years ago. For years, a group of friends and I hosted a charity New Year's Eve party - the Crystal Ball. We always had fresh oysters, shucked by our friend George Hastings, the 2003 Guinness World Oyster Shucking Champion.
On New Year's Eve, Mr. G and I met up at Nick's Fish House on the lovely middle branch of the Patapsco River. You might remember that we went there on December 1st for dinner. Nick's is a great place for many reasons, not the least of which is that parking is ample and free, unlike the area around Cross Street Market, which we'd also considered.
There were two varieties of oysters on offer at Nick's - Blue Points and Chincoteagues. Blue Points come from Long Island and are much brinier than the Chincoteagues that we had. They were also much larger and waterier. The Chincoteagues were smaller and more well-formed. I must admit that I liked the Blue Points better - they taste like eating the ocean.

Happy New Year, Mr. G... you're the best!


John said...

I want oysters now.

Julie said...

My niece goes to St Mary's. I didn't know about the oyster beds but St Mary's is full of surprises. The annual naked bike ride, for instance.

Pigtown-Design said...

Geezzzzz Julie.. i musta missed that one. I was too busy sailing to bkie!

Julie said...

I don't think you'd have missed it if it was going on while you were there. Perhaps it's a more recent tradition