Coming from South Africa, an Oyster Roast is not something I know. Oysters are not standard fare in the home country. The best time to indulge in this luxury in South Africa is during the annual Knysna Oyster Festival, when thousands of people stream into the small coastal town of Knysna on the Garden Route. The oysters are generally baked or steamed.
I have never before encountered the way Southerners attack the oysters with reckless abandon! Humor me while I tell it as it is for the uninitiated. Ideally, to create a great atmosphere, there should be a Bluegrass band playing banjo, guitar, violin, and double bass while singing lively country songs. The music sets the feet tapping and builds up a good appetite.
Of course, there should be plenty of beer or wine or whatever liquid refreshment goes well with the oysters.
A typical oyster roast outdoor will offer pork crackling to nibble on, as well as hot dogs with trimmings, chili, and coleslaw.
Long tables with empty drums for discarded oyster shells will stand ready, bearing saltine crackers and containers with hot and cocktail sauces as an accompaniment to the seafood.
An experienced team of steamers will be at the ready. Some will shovel bushels of oysters into long wire baskets for steaming in large cooking kettles or roasted in fire pits.
Other team members will carry the said baskets to the long tables when the oysters are ready.
Excited diners grab their drinks and jump out of the way of the hot containers as
the team pours the mollusks on the surface.
Then, glove in one hand and shucking knife at the ready in the other, they regroup around the tables. Silence ensues as knives pry open the shells to get the delicious, salty meat inside. It is a messy business but oh, so rewarding!
The oysters come in clumps, so one works through quite a few hinged shells before discarding the empty mollusk into the trash.
South Carolina’s riverbanks, creeks, and salt marshes are ideal habitats for growing the Eastern Oyster. The coastal line is flat and tidal areas shelter natural oyster reefs. The oyster season runs from fall through early spring. The cooler November through February months are ideal for hosting outdoor oyster roasts. As a bonus, oysters are healthy and nutritious, an excellent meal. Enjoy and shuck on!
My next book will be about emigrating from the Lowveld to the Lowcountry!