The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to everyone, world-wide. Lockdowns mean few dine out, except the hardy folks braving outdoor tables and sidewalk pods in winter conditions. Spring, and the vaccines, are coming, and hope is poised on the horizon, but we are not enjoying sweater weather or herd immunity just yet. Won’t it be fabulous when we can wander into our favorite waterfront restaurants soon, and see our neighbors, and eat food that we didn’t clumsily prepare ourselves?
I can’t wait to eat some professionally-baked, crusty French bread, smeared with good butter, drinking a flute of well-chilled Prosecco. Maybe Mr. Sanders will enjoy a platter of deliciously iced oysters, shucked by someone talented and dextrous. (When we try to shuck them at home we always feel as if we are one step closer to a trip to the ER.) This has been our option for the past year: home cooking. Some meals have been better than others. We try not to dwell on the Great Baguette Debacle.
The Maryland oyster industry has been suffering through this year of the pandemic. With restaurants closed or serving mostly take out foods, there has been less demand for our local oysters. Luckily Eastern Shore oyster-farming has gone online, and you can eat very well while supporting our local aquaculture: https://www.chesapeakeoysteralliance.org/partners/where-to-buy-chesapeake-farmed-oysters.html
There is an old saying about only eating raw oysters in the months with the letter “r”, generally September to April. Luckily we are perched at the beginning of March. Get out your shucking knives and cut up some lemons. Try a few kinds of the bi-valve from several locations around the Bay. The flavor of an oyster varies by the degree of salinity in the water. You will have lots to choose from.
This weekend, why don’t you enjoy a little home-made oyster roast? Get the fire pit roaring or bring some blankets into the back yard for a nice, socially distanced seafood fest. After you suck down a dozen raw oysters it will be time to move onto oyster stew, fried or grilled oysters, or Oysters Rockefeller or even oyster pie. And then you will wonder why you have been depriving yourself of oysters all through this COVID-19 panic. Get online to order some delicious Maryland seafood.
First: learn how to shuck an oyster. It is a deceptively simple-looking art.
Here are some recipes from some of the Eastern Shore oyster farms – you can revel in all the different flavors found around the Bay as you support our local ostreiculture:
Maryland Fried Oysters
Maryland Oyster Stew
Choptank Sweets Parmesano
Scott Budden’s Grilled Orchard Point Oysters
Cheddar Baked Oysters
From some non-shore folks:
Oyster info: https://www.chesapeakeoysteralliance.org
And remember to recycle your oyster shells! https://www.chesapeakeoysteralliance.org/get-involved/recycle-oyster-shells.html
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
– Ernest Hemingway