Monday, March 09, 2015

going to oyster town

Boss Oyster is so large they can afford this oyster washer. Oysters go in on this end, are tumbled and sprayed and come out clean on the other. Beyond is the Apalachicola River and beyond that the Bay.

We’re just about to fly out of Rutland airport for a warmer (as opposed to hot) climate – to the Panhandle of Florida, to the little town of Apalachicola. My son-not-exactly-in-law, recently back from the south, explained to me that’s proof that the Appalachians should be pronounced in that southern way, with the soft a, AppalAHchia, instead of AppalAYchia, because that little town provided a kind of southern stem of the mountains that we know and love: the Apalachicola People would travel up to the mountains to hunt and fish, then retire smartly to winter in comparative comfort: Apalachicola is better known for its bays and rivers and gulf shore. And oysters.

Yes oysters, and I intend to eat so many of them in the coming days that I won’t need to stop into Green Mountain Fresh on State Street anytime soon for a secret feast. (You can do that, you know, stop in and order a half dozen or so freshly opened oysters and sit there and slurp them up with the horseradish sauce or not. You could even do it at three o’clock in the afternoon if you pleased. You could take a friend with you, or friends, or not. You can rely on Ingrid’s discretion.)

Anyway, I’m on tenterhooks about whether or not the flight will leave because don’tcha know, snow is forecast for Wednesday (this will be in the past by the time you read it). Do you ever remember winter being so reliably frigid – between 5° and 15°, with very few even 20° days? Except according to my south porch thermometer which often tells me it’s in the thirties out there and it is until you get to the end of the porch and the wind smacks you back into the house to get some real clothes on!

I was thinking that there’s not really all that much to say about oysters except that they’re all at least a bit different according to where they’re found. One of the biggest regrets of my life is about the time when I was in my twenties and sitting in a little roadhouse right on the Chesapeake Bay and some friends came up with fresh dug oysters from the bay and offered to share with me and I refused. This little northern brat was not going to let that slime down her gullet. I wasn't exactly stupid, just ignorant: Had no idea what I was missing.

What else would you say about oysters except that maybe you could ruin them by cooking them or putting too much glop on them? A bit of lemon juice is as far as I want to go and that only after I've slurped down a couple of the briny, liquory lovelies all by their own selves.

But then I looked up our very own Rowan Jacobsen who wrote The Geography of Oysters, and he maintains that Apalachicola oysters are one of the 3 very best in the country, along with Damariscotta’s Glidden Points and Totten Virginicas from Washington State. And he says this about Apalachicola itself, 
“this is one of those few towns that considers breakfast part of the oyster day. I began my morning with a dozen on the half-shell at Caroline’s, and followed that up with Oyster Cakes ’n Eggs (grits on the side, naturally). But I could have easily gone for the oyster omelet, or waited a few hours and tried the oyster tacos, oyster jambalaya, chargrilled oysters, or oysters & artichokes poached in champagne and served in puff pastry.”
Caroline’s is the adjunct restaurant of the Apalachicola River Inn where we are staying. Are we lucky or not.
So I guess I’m wrong – I’d forgotten that I do love them crispy fried and now I may learn to love them poached in sparkling wine. But eventually Jacobsen comes back to my point of view when he begins to talk about the offerings from the legendary Boss Oyster: “Boss has several pages worth of oyster recipes, everything from oyster po’ boys to oyster stew, plus they’ll Gild the Lily and pile chives, ponzu, wasabi, and flying fish roe on your raw oysters, but really, with oysters this fresh, you should probably accent them with nothing more than a Dos Equis.”
Yes Man!

About Apalachicola itself, Jacobsen says, 
“What makes Apalachicola even better is that it is about 80 miles from Anywhere, which keeps most highly annoying tourists away. The few who make it here are already in the know. And what they know is that if your idea of a good time is to hang out in a small town with a working waterfront…. and where oysters are not a precious luxury but part of the fabric of town then Apalachicola just may be the best place on earth.”  
I certainly would agree with that. Reminds me of my joy hanging around the lobster boats on Maine’s Monhegan Island.

He also says that tonging oysters in April was pure bliss, but the oysterman he was with said that summer, “95 degrees, no wind,” is brutal, and winter is even worse.” Note that I’ll be there end of February, first of March. We’ll see!

One last quote? Rowan Jacobsen maintains that – in 2012 at least – Apalachicola oysters were $8 a dozen. And we’re gonna be there – god willin’ and the crick don’t rise – on Thursday. But I won’t relax until I’m sitting on that plane hearing the lovely tractor-like roar of the motor revving up to lift us all off the ground and into the air. I still don’t believe that’s possible, do you? Let’s face it, if anything goes wrong y’all will have heard the news by now.

And that would be a shame because that would mean I would die famished for oysters. And if you are, too – craving oysters, I mean – get yourself on down to Green Mountain Fresh on Thursday or Friday and have a dozen. It won’t quite be the same – I doubt you’ll get flying fish roe on top of them; and do be sure to take your own Dos Equis.
These were grilled with Parmesan and as a second choice over the best – raw – really wonderful!