The lovely wife and wonderful kids had an outstanding first week of school. Sarah nailed a couple of projects, Katie transitioned to third grade like a pro, and Brendan has turned out to be an attentive and compliant kindergartener. I even felt reasonably successful this week. So, with all that in mind, Sarah and I got to get away for a very brief overnight getaway at the Lake of the Ozarks with some great friends.
Along the way, I got to have a new food adventure, that one would not expect in the middle of America.
Before I go any further, I will say, I have always had mixed feelings about eating our mollusk friends.
Clams good! Mussels: good! Scallops: Sweet and delicious!
Calamari: Not a fan!
Octopus: There is a reason some call them devil fish.
Maybe I’m anti-cephlapod.
Oysters…what do I say about oysters? Well, my experience with oysters goes back to my childhood. When I was a kid, my Grandpa Crowder used to live with us for several months at a time when he was in his eighties, and I was in middle school. My grandpa was quite a character. He would smoke his pipe in bed and occasionally try to trip you with his cane. He would whip you at dominoes, gin rummy, or especially at checkers (he was almost blind, so we put white tape on black checkers so he could see the board). Then after he beat you, he’d laugh. He was fun to have around. But, one of my clearest memories of him was oyster stew.
The story goes that he had it once on his way out to visit one of my uncles in California. He apparently had it in New Mexico (because that’s where you go for oysters), and loved it. It was one of his favorites. So, about once a week while he lived with us, my mom would make oyster stew for him. I don’t know how she made it, but it involved canned oysters. I just remember it smelled bad. I’m trying to keep my blog G-rated, so I won’t get descriptive in saying what it smelled like. So, you reader, may use your imagination:
It smelled like _______________.
It was SO bad, that once when he sat down for his lunch of it, my mom, sister, and I all put clothespins on our noses while he ate. He laughed and laughed.
So, my first impression of oysters was not good.
Fast forward to Christmas, 2001. The lovely wife and I were having our first Christmas as a married couple. Her parents are from rural Minnesota, and as part of their Christmas eve tradition, they always had what else…oyster stew. (Because Minnesota is THE place for oysters)
For weeks leading up to the traditional Christmas Eve stew, I swore to Sarah that I would NOT eat oyster stew. I complained about the smell, the look of the oysters, and basically wondered how we would celebrate the birth of Jesus with Mollusks in Milk. So, the big day finally came, and at some point I finally said to Sarah, “How do you eat those things?”
Finally, Sarah said, “Oh, we don’t eat the oysters.”
Basically, my fantastic mother-in-law puts heats cream, tons of butter, and then adds some shucked oysters (not from a can). Then they put OYSTER CRACKERS in and drink the creamy, buttery broth. Occasionally someone may get an oyster speck, but that’s it.
In 2002, Sarah’s Aunt Pat (from Wisconsin, also known as “America’s Oysterland”) made stew at a big family reunion. She used different, smaller oysters…I tried some in the stew, and it was great! So now, I was confused. Could these lowly bottom feeders be good?
So, back to this weekend’s adventure. We were down at the Lake of the Ozarks (Known worldwide as the place for fantastic oysters) and one of our friends brought some VERY FRESH seafood on ice.
This friend of ours works for a very wealthy individual. Occasionally he provides our friend with some AMAZING seafood. A few weeks ago, he brought home some big eye tuna. We had it sashimi style, and it was delicious.
This weekend, our friend brought fresh oysters and two ten pound lobsters. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay for the lobster, but I will let you know, the lobsters had a good time before their date with the steamer.
Perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten so overweight if they didn’t drink so much.
Back to the oysters…we had 50 fresh oysters on ice for Friday night. Most of them were put on the grill to cook in their shells with a little garlic, spices, and parmesan cheese.
But a couple were left aside for those who liked them raw. After seeing one of our friends take one off the half shell, I thought I’d give it a try.
I put all my preconceived notions about oysters aside, added a little Tobasco sauce, and let that little bivalve slip-slide down my throat. It was cold, salty with a touch of spice, and actually wonderful. I especially loved getting the liquid out at the end. I could honestly see myself eating a whole tray of those in the future.
Shortly after, the other oysters from the grill were ready. The lovely wife took this picture that captures the pile of sea bounty before us:
These were delectable. We put a little lemon juice on each one, and had one amazing bite of what I’ll call Ozark Oysters. The parmesan and oysters complimented each well, and I thought the lemon really brightened each bite with it’s slight sweet-sour flavors.
So, what have we learned? I’ve learned that I have seen my relationship with oysters come full circle, from clothespins on the nose, to sucking down these live bottom-feeders in central Missouri on a fantastic weekend of food with friends.
So, I’ll ask my readers two questions.
1. How do you feel about oysters?
2. What is your favorite mollusk meal?