Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gulf Coast Blues

Unless you're living under a rock, you all know by now about the BP Deep Water Horizon spill that's threatening essentially the entire Gulf of Mexico, if not the entire North Atlantic down the line. It's an environmental disaster, it's an economic disaster, it's a tourism disaster, it's a personal livelihood disaster. Let's face it, it's hard keeping up with the different sorts of disasters we have on our hands and will have for months and years.

Since this is a food blog and I try to stay on topic, a disaster that hits close to home is that I may be an old man before I'll ever have another gulf coast oyster again. That's tough to swallow. Tougher still when I remember what is probably the best dish of my life.

Last year on Mother's Day, I took my mom out to a nice little restaurant called Satterfield's. There were a few options for the special holiday prix fixe, but the starter I picked (paired with champagne) was a little flight of oysters.

The first oyster was a no-frills classic Oyster Rockefeller, with a touch of tarragon and rich creamy flavor that reminded me of every trip I've taken to New Orleans. The next oyster was a blue point, served raw on the half shell with shredded cucumber and a granita of passionfruit on top. Contrasted with the fatty Rockefeller, the brisk cold and acidity in that oyster completely wiped my palate clean and left me tasting the sea and sun all at once. The final oyster was such a bizarre presentation that I still smile thinking about it. A cordial glass was filled with a Bloody Mary, and nestled into the bottom of that glass was a raw gulf oyster, like the olive at the bottom of a martini. The salt and umami in the oyster really brought out the Worchestershire of the Bloody Mary, and the tart and the alcohol swept everything along as I chased it down. Three completely different directions with an oyster, and I was thrilled to be along for the ride.

I don't even really remember what else I ate that day. It obviously wasn't that important. But those oysters sure were, even as far away from the coast as we are in Birmingham. You see, even if we're not on the coast, the South relies on the gulf more than most people realize. It's our livelihood, sure, but it's also largely our culture. And with our culture involved, it certainly involves our food. The thought of a shrimp gumbo containing shrimp flash frozen from California or Mexico sickens me. The thought that I probably won't have another raw oyster unless I travel to some place with shores that aren't befouled by oil is almost unthinkable. It wasn't too long ago that I can remember being in the company of friends at a dive bar in New Orleans, down a few dozen bottles of Chimay and many more dozen empty half shells. I was a late bloomer liking those little things, and now that this has happened, I regret every day that's gone by that I didn't squeeze in an oyster or two. You just don't think about these things simply not being around anymore.

2 comments:

Claudia Ka said...

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