Friday, August 11, 2017

Oysters and a Flatbed Truck


Mountain View
If there is one thing that is popular on the Gulf Coast – it’s oysters. Raw, baked, fried, or steamed – these little delicacies either make people grimace at the very thought of them or if you’re like me, they’re the perfect flavor of saltwater and sunshine. Sometimes people ask what they taste like and just like many people say – they taste like the ocean. And living where you can get naturally harvested oysters from Apalachicola is just icing on the cake.

What is just as important as tasting them is the memories I have. Growing up, my daddy would go to the seafood market and buy a bag of oysters. Heck, try to buy one now and it’ll cost you your firstborn but back then I’d go with him and we’d bring that big bag of raw oysters home where he would place it on the tailgate of the truck. Armed with saltines and hot sauce, he’d shuck them while we ate them raw in the side yard. Usually it was cold outside standing by the truck but it sure made those oysters taste good – fresh, briny, and cold. Sometimes my mom would save some for the dressing she’d make at Thanksgiving.

If you’ve never had a raw oyster, it’s like a rite of passage. The first one should have a little hot sauce and horseradish on it if you like and then you just pick it up and let it slide into your mouth along with the oyster liquor. In fact, that liquor keeps the oyster alive out of the water and is one of the best parts of eating the delicacy. The briny taste of the Gulf of Mexico is the first thing you notice and the freshness cannot be duplicated. You’ll see tourists trying them and almost always they’ll go for the baked or fried but they don’t know what they’re missing.

You see, to me it’s not just the oyster and how it tastes, it’s the memory of my dad handing me a shucked oyster to eat or my mom making oyster dressing when most other families I knew had cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. It’s going to a local dive and having oysters for dinner along with a basket of crackers and Tabasco sauce and it’s feeling that first cold drop of liquor hitting your taste buds – there’s a reason they’re considered umami.

If I could travel back in time, one place I’d go is right back to my daddy’s truck and share an oyster or six with him. Since I can’t travel back in time, every time I have raw oysters I think back to that little girl sharing some with her dad at the back of his truck on a cold, winter day.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanwalsh

Friday, August 4, 2017

Clothesline

As I lay my head on my pillow, I breathed in the scent of the outdoors. Even though it's been years since I hung anything on a line to dry, I can still smell the fragrance of it.



Growing up, it was a few years before we got an electric dryer so everything went on the clothesline outside. I would stand in the backyard with my mother and help her hang the clothes – trying hard to find a way to play in the sunshine instead of doing work. The laundry would come back crisp and clean with whatever scents the breeze carried – honeysuckle, pine tree, or even the fresh ozone of a storm on the way.



After I grew up, moved out, and got my own house, it too was a while before I got a dryer. I had a yellow lab who would tear down every single sheet, shirt, and even the socks that were hung with care. The laundry had to be restarted but some days I miss picking up my bed sheets out of the dirt because I miss that dog.



The only thing that comes the least bit close is being able to open up the bedroom window in the middle of fall. The breeze blows in through the window fan, covering all the sheets with the smell of grass and sky. And if you don’t have a window fan, it’s simply not the same. Some nights even in Florida it's just cool enough to bury yourself under a comforter while listening to the leaves rustle outside.



The smell of fresh sheets hung on a clothesline is more than just a feel-good moment. It's the memories of doing laundry with my mom who used the old, wooden clothespins and always took them inside with each load, rushing to bring in the laundry before a sudden storm, and it's the memory of a yellow dog named Harley who loved to leap in the air and tear down the laundry so he could roll with it in the dirt.



Photo by Michael Gäbler, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21299216

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