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Oysters Aweigh!

5 Feb 2016
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The only thing I love more than a celebration is a celebration centered around food and drink. So when my friend  Stayce  invited me to my first-ever oyster roast to celebrate the “Eve of New Year’s Eve,” I couldn’t say no.

But I couldn’t exactly give a resounding “yes” either. See, I don’t really like oysters.

You’d think growing up on the west coast, I’d binge on bivalves. But see enough mussels being crushed on docks, witness enough seagulls eviscerating stringy  clams ,  and be told over and over again that the little creatures inside are really just “one, big stomach,” and you kind of lose interest.

That’s not to say that I’ve completely abstained; after all, I’m somewhat adventurous, a trait that grows stronger with each sip of sauvignon blanc. A few years ago I attended the Tybee Wine Festival  and sampled oysters under the guise of grilled, fried, steamed,  ceviche’d  and straight up. The only thing I couldn’t stomach (pun intended), was the ceviche. Cold soup with gelatinous floaters?  No  thank you.

To be honest, I did follow the wisdom of my 9-year-old daughter who dresses everything up in  ketchup,  and buried the various oysters in an array of sauces: cocktail, butter,  garlic  and tabasco—sometimes all four.

“If you put enough on it, you can’t even taste the oyster,” I’m told, leaving me to wonder, what’s the point? Why not just put the saucy concoction in a Dixie cup and shoot it and let the little oyster live out his sea-life destiny?

The point, I’ll discover, is that eating oysters is a communal event where people gather together to engage in the ceremony of shucking, saucing and sometimes even eating the  lil ’ buggers.

Stayce’s  backyard is lit by tiki torches and a fire pit, but it’s anything but cold. While it’s a myth that oysters should only be eaten in the cold months (I did some research), they do tend to be larger and have more flavor. Plus, it just feels right from a seasonal standpoint. Pumpkin pie in July just doesn’t make sense. 

The place is humming with people. Kids are running about and literally swinging from the trees on a “ swurfer ”—a hybrid swing/surfboard.  Stayce  suddenly pops out of the shadows and hands me a shot glass filled with Bloody Mary mix,  vodka  and an oyster. “You just open your throat and let it slide down,” she explains.

Again, I’m struck by the fact that I’m encouraged not to bite into or otherwise taste the oyster, which sounds just fine to me. I throw it back, and what feels like a wad of Hubba Bubba slips easily down my throat on a river of vodka.

Sting Ray’s Seafood on Tybee brought the 500 oysters to the roast and prepared them in a portable steamer. Then they pour them out onto a long table, the raucous noise alerting the guests that it is time to get down to work.  Stayce  senses my hesitancy and offers that if I don’t want to eat the oysters, I can be a “mother shucker.”

“What did you call me?”

“Some people don’t eat the oysters, but enjoy shucking them,”  Stayce  explains. “So you can be a mother shucker if you want.”

I like the sound of that.

She tells me that you hold the knife in your dominant hand and hold the oyster in your other, gloved hand. You wedge the knife between the shell and twist until you get an opening, then turn the knife and split the oyster open, which is as easy as putting toothpaste back into the tube.

“No, it’s not easy,”  Stayce  acknowledges. “I’ll sit here for a good thirty minutes and probably eat like 10 oysters. But I enjoy it.”


“It’s fun when you’re all standing around the table, shucking and talking and trying to see who gets the biggest oyster,” she enthuses. “It’s like a surprise. Sometimes it’s a dud. You do all this mother-shucking and you’re like, ‘There’s nothing in here!’, and then you’re sad, so you walk away from the table and have another drink.”

I spend most of  evening  walking away from the table and having another drink, which accounts for at least half of my good time. The other half has everything to do with the friends around me and the interaction that an oyster roast provides. The oyster—the reason for the season.

Looking for a good spot in Savannah to enjoy some oysters? Check out some of our favorite places