Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Local Oysters

I'm not sure that naming oysters after the specific place they are grown and harvested is as new as this Times story suggests. I remember once, about 20 years ago, visiting Terry Backer in his old Soundkeeper office in Norwalk, and he showed me a sign he had salvaged from, if I remember correctly, the 1930s, that advertised oysters taken from the vicinity of one of the smaller Norwalk Islands. And Mark Kurlansky, in The Big Oyster, says that Saddle Rock oysters were so big that in the 1800s, 25 of them made up a bushel, which obviously suggests that in the 1800s, oysters were named after a specific place.

But that's a quibble. The Times story is fascinating, with lots of goood information about oyster growers, mainly on eastern Long Island, many of whom are Native Americans. Reading it made me want to go back to the Fish Cellar, in Mount Kisco, and eat a dozen Pine Islands from Oyster Bay.



Blogger Sam said...

Wasn't that a great story in the Times? Too often we hear about how oystering is in such bad shape, when it seems to be coming back in boutique operations. Seems like it's quite a science now, too.

You mentioned place names but as I recall, sometimes the oysters were unloaded from the water to local fish houses ... with some kept for sale and some sent on truck to the big city. In the 60's I can remember some of these old fish houses - really just shacks on telephone poles - having massive piles of oyster shells near them.

By the 70's a bunch of development was starting to occur and lime was needed for the roadways to stabilize the muck ... so they would grind up the oyster shells for the lime content in the roadbed.

But Petri's Dock in old Clinton had two massive piles of oyster shell, perhaps six feet high and twelve feet around. I was unclear if those were from shucked oysters or just used for oyster seeding operations (oyster spat needed something to grow on).

To this day, they say you can tell were indigenous Indians camped because of their large piles or "middens" of oyster shell. I think the way they ate them - which I like as well - was to heat them on hot rocks heated by a fire until they barely opened.

To me, they take on a completely different taste done that way, more nutty and complex. Try it sometime on the BBQ!

1:08 PM  

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