Oysters are amazing. Have you ever eaten one? How did you eat it? Raw and on ice, maybe a drop or two on lemon juice on them, these are great, but there are even better ways to eat oysters, ones where you can create memories and unbelievable experiences. Have you ever had and oyster with wasabi, or horseradish? Garlic? Bacon? Parm? Tabasco?
The best part of oysters are friends. I don’t think I have ever eaten them alone. It is a social event. I can almost name all the places and times I have eaten oysters, because they have mostly been with the closest of friends in the best of times. Here are sometimes I remember the most.
1. Buckets of oysters from Westcott bay with Wes and Trevor on leave from the army. We were kids and poor and Westcott has this honor system, and we didn’t have much honor at the time. We picked a whole "buckets" worth of oysters and there was this little shack around the corner where you would pay for them. While Wes and I went in to pay for the “bag” of oysters that we had “picked” Trevor was loading the buckets in the back of the car. We were bad people, but it was good times.
2. In Friday harbor with Chris. We learned a lot that day. We were having a party that night, it was at my sister’s cabin, it was Christmas time, and she was gone and it had snowed. The cabin was located in the dark woods that gave it an awesome feeling with the snow and trees when driving up. Chris got a handle of rum and started early. And Carol with here Quebec accent showed us how to “pop” them so they were still raw, but you didn’t have to work as hard, “put them in the oven real hot, broil, they will “pop open” she was right. Chris drank more and more and was soon “buzzed” as he said, he was hammered. The party started, and everyone was there. Wes “infested” the place, this was the words he used when he saw the enormous TV my sister had in such a small cabin "we will infest this place". The wood stove was lite, the consoles here hooked up and the party was underway. Hours of friends coming and going, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. The boys were busy playing James Bond Goldeneye. Girls were coming and going looking for their attention, but the boys didn’t seem to care. Chris was passed out in the middle of the party and people were coming in and out stepping over him. It was awesome. Some of us took the liberty of drawing large male penises on his face. Halfway through the night Chris awoke, popped up like one of these weird string dolls that you compress the button and they collapse, then you release it, and it springs to life. He slid back up on his makeshift log chair, literally it was a log for the fireplace, and he proceeded to act as if he never passed out. It was pretty hilarious, him sitting there cheering on the video game, in a room full of fools and girls chatting… “nice move…nice shot” he would say, “the trick is to feel, don’t focus on your screen, see all the players” this was sound advice from a man with a large sharpie cock drawn across if face like a Maori tattoo. It was a great night indeed.
3. My fathers cabin. Chris and I motored over to Erikson’s dock and began scouring the rocks for oysters, there where thousands of them. Stuart Island was awesome for this because it wasn’t as picked over as San Juan Island. There were oysters everywhere and we were grabbing them. This is one of the greatest things about food in general, when you work for it, you get it yourself, you harvest it with your bare hands. It is like a grown-up version of and Easter hunt. The excitement is in the act, the find… “look at this one!” looking back at it now, it seems like some of the oysters were as big as a football, they were just laying their dormant and growing throughout the years. not saying that you want to eat these, but it was fun to find them. I remember being there, really there, at the cabin with Chris and my father and the fire and eating the oysters with music and summer setting sun. We found a jar of Beaver wasabi horseradish and it was perfect. I remember thinking that in life there would be more of these moments, at this cabin with these people. It was the last time I ate oysters with my father or ate them on Stuart in general.
4. Johannes’s, we ate a lot of oysters at Johannes’s, but there was this one time that I remember the most. The night before we were at a party out at Lime Kiln lighthouse, we were at the light keepers house. There was this kid that worked for the state park and that was his job, to take care of the light house. It was amazing. Good time, good music, good people. The following night Johannes had a party at his house. Johannes’s house was beautiful with a beautiful deck overlooking the west side of San Juan Island. This light house kid showed up with his own oysters for all of us to eat, but these were different, he opened them all and stuffed them with chopped bacon, cheddar, parm and chives. They were delicious.
5. My 40th birthday party. We went back to Friday Harbor as a family, My new family in the place that I grew up. The boys and Kim, my sister Erin and her family and Laura and here soon to be Family. We rented a large house together on Westcott bay. It was beautiful. The house, the views of the bay in front of us, the hot tub, the deck. That night Archie came over as our pastor, and said a pray and Finn dumped my father and mother's ashes into the ocean, thing was the wind was blowing lightly towards us, so we were all covered in my mother and father. we all laughed and everything was perfect. I remember thinking that at the time. this is the best that life gets, right here right now. I think we had Westcott bay oysters every night. I was so happy when Finn and Reilly tried an oyster, although I think it was hard from them, they pretended like they liked it. I knew then, that they were socially adjusted. The best night by far was when Wes invited me over to his Mom’s house for my birthday party. At first I thought it was just going to be us, but Wes called everyone and everyone came. This was a place where I had spent much of my childhood and had many fond memories. It too was beautiful. Sue was always excellent at everything, excellent at being a mother, a friend, at building additions to her geodesic dome, at gardening, at really good at cooking. We had a great night that night, the kids ran, the adults sat outside and talked. I had no idea that Bob and James had spent so many years in Alaska and knew some of the same people and all of the places I did. I still remember Wes and Johannes hovering over the grill as the oysters “popped” and them just throwing them in their mouths, one after another… Sue later said, “I would like some oysters too” and both Wes and Johannes nonchalantly chastising her for not knowing the rules. “you know the rules, if you want oysters get out there and get them or we are going to eat them all!” they were serious. They were wrldmrine.
6. Eating summer oysters with my family… in the warm summer Saturdays in Anchorage we have a farmers market down the road from our house. There are excellent Alaskan grown produce stands, but there is an even a better seafood stand. This place has the best seafood I have ever seen in my life. Copper river reds never frozen, just chilled on ice fresh from the river. You take it home and cook it that night with olive oil, salt and pepper, I cannot explain how good this tastes because most people will never know and they have their own histories of eating salmon, most times they don’t know the species, is it red? is it king? is it silver? They almost never know the river system it comes from. And almost all of the time the fish has been frozen so it is never fresh. Fish taste fishy when it isn’t fresh, but salmon tastes real fishy. This farmer's market stand has some really, really good oysters, you can buy them in singles or in knitted bags of a dozen. I love taking these home and “popping” them with my wife on the grill. They boys try different combinations and still try to impress our excitement. I think this is the biggest moment. The part where the boys try the oysters, they try them with lime, lemon, parm, they try them time after time, every time, they get excited and they pretend, and I love them for it. Someday we will eat them on Stuart Island in the sun set listening to Bob Marley as the fire crackles.