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.

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