I am not an expensive girl.
I don’t own a single piece of jewelry or pair of shoes over 100 bucks (except maybe my hi-tech running shoes). I’m not a fan of pricey, delicate blooms like orchids or roses, but prefer the hearty stems and unrefined brightness of sunflowers. Nine nights out of ten, I’d choose a really good pub over a swanky lounge. And on an average day, I can go from showered to chic in under 15 minutes.
Achingly low budget aside, my personality typically precludes me from ordering something like oysters on the half shell served over ice and flanked by various delicate sauces (not to mention the customary champagne to wash it down). But last week, I learned a whole different way to eat oysters—one that’s way more up my alley.
Midway through a lazy beach day down in South Carolina, Anthony’s Dad (also named Anthony, but who goes by Tony) rounded us up and drove to a small roadside stand. Seafood from a shack off the main drag? I was skeptical. But Tony assured me the catch was top-notch.
No sooner had we gotten out of the car, than the proprietor—a local character called ‘Barnacle Bill’—came running out to greet us. Tony cut to the chase, avoiding the “specials” and “fish of the day,” and beelined it to the shellfish case. He pointed out a huge box of oysters and said, “I’ll take that…for 50 bucks.” Barnacle Bill scoffed and said, “Seventy-five.” To which Tony replied, “Fifty.” Bill came down to sixty-five, then sixty, and then finally met Tony at his outrageously low price. But Tony wasn’t satisfied, he said, “Throw in that half box over there and I’ll still take it for $50.” Barnacle Bill tried to refuse, but to no avail. So, we walked away with 8 or 10 dozen oysters for the bargain basement price of 50 bucks. But what were we going to do with all these oysters?!
At home, Tony fired up the Weber and popped the cork on some sparkling wine—no time to change out of our bathing suits. Dozen by sweet, briny dozen, he threw them on the grill until they just began to open (or ‘smile,’ as he put it.) As soon as he took each batch of oysters off the grill, we were on them, holding them like hot cakes in paper towels and jacking them open with butter knives. We dashed them with a little hot sauce or a squeeze of lemon and gulped them down, burning our fingers and lips on the shells…though we hardly noticed our injuries. We managed to get a few open raw, and they were salty, slick and tender perfection.
There was nothing pretentious about this oyster feast. There were way too many to be shy or proper, they were coming off the grill faster than we could eat them, and they were so hot that we were shouting expletives left and right as we fumbled them open with dull utensils—half naked in our bathing suits, no less. And, when we were hot and sweaty, but incredibly satisfied, we took a lazy, refreshing dip in the pool.
Forget white table clothes, crisp napkins, and attentive waiters—a fast-paced, all-out, interactive, seafood fest…now that is how I like to eat oysters.