Belly up to the oyster bar

Published 11:01 pm Saturday, November 14, 2009

When it comes to my career, I had thought I had covered it all. I thought I couldn’t be caught off guard by documenting an event, large or small. But that changed Saturday.

Growing up along the Alabama Gulf Coast, I had attended my fair share of shrimp boils, crab boils and crawfish boils. I had even attended raw oyster events and seen a couple of “jubilees.”

But until Saturday, I had never been to an oyster roast, and I was woefully unprepared.

I enjoy oysters. I enjoy them raw, baked, fried and sautéed. I have had them in soups and mixed in dressing, but I had never had them roasted.

In helping cover city events Saturday, I chose to cover the C.E. & H. Ruritan oyster roast in Eclipse. Taking with me just a notebook, pen and camera, I thought I would be prepared for just about everything.

I mean, it was oysters, and they were roasted and cooked for large number of people. Just “belly up” to the table and eat.

But as I walked up to the event, I was simply amazed at the turnout and equally as amazed at the mere volume of oysters prepared to be roasted.

I watched as they threw pounds of oysters atop the roaster and then covered them with wet burlap sacks. There were two cookers going and about six wheelbarrows at the ready.

As the oysters finished cooking, I watched as club members lined up with shovels and then watched as they oysters were raked off into the wheelbarrows to be carried to the tables and the dozens upon dozens of people waiting to eat them.

I simply wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared.

I didn’t have my fish boots on, nor did I bring with me a selection of horseradishes and hot sauces, as many of those attending did. And, I definitely did not take the time to squirrel away a spot on the long tables.

Many of those attending Saturday’s events were oyster pros, and this “rookie” had a lot to learn.

This “good ole’ southern boy,” who has eaten my weight in shrimp and crawfish many times over has learned his lesson. I am already working on my cocktail sauce recipe for next year and getting my fishing boots ready.

I may not be covering next year’s oyster roast, but I will be there and I will have my spot at the table reserved.