Oyster Fest

I'm sure you know this just by reading one post of my blog, but my family and I are particularly water-centric. We've grown up on the East Coast, swimming in the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, and swimming on countless swim teams. I love to do open water swims as well, and a lot of the time, the reactions I get from people are "Ew, you swim there? I hope you don't grow a third arm from all the pollutants, I'd never swim there."

It's sad that people are more shocked I would swim in the Chesapeake Bay, than that I am swimming 4.4 miles across it. I wish the water wasn't polluted, and I wish there was a quick fix for that. But there are some natural fixes! Oysters naturally filter the water and help keep the water cleaner. My parents found a company where you can buy a cage of oysters and help contribute to better water quality, as well as maintain jobs for local fisherman. So my parents contributed to the Oyster Company of Virginia 4 years ago now, and last year they got a call that the oysters were finally mature enough for their first harvest to be delivered. My parents didn't really have a plan, weren't prepared for their delivery and just told them to donate the harvest that year.

Well, they told us kids that story this summer and we were so surprised that we didn't know anything about it! They said it had been in November and with all of the Thanksgiving stuff being planned, they knew we wouldn't want to travel a different weekend, so we made them promise to keep us in the loop this year. To be honest, I'd never even had an oyster before, so I just wanted to experience another Chesapeake Bay tradition! We have the crab feast thing down, but oysters? Challenge accepted.

So this years harvest rolled around, and my parents, Becky and I were able to be at the River to receive it. But it was going to be a LOT of oysters for 4 people. Did I mention I'd never even had one before? Becky and my mom neither. Sorry Dad, you have to pick up our slack! So we invited our friends Ben and Nora to come along, both of whom are oyster eating champs! Ben was even going to totally school us in the ways of shucking, preparing, grilling, and eating oysters. I was so excited! A weekend at the River with family, friends, and food! And of course sunsets, runs, kayaking, reading, games, and drinking. Please enjoy my picture documentation of the amazing weekend :-)
Mom and Dad's set up of everything we could need!
Our souvenirs of the weekend!
We went to a play Friday night and Becky provided some entertainment in the lobby beforehand.  When I went for a run the next day, an older couple I passed walking said "You play the french horn!"  I said that it's my sister who plays but that they have fantastic memories.  Becky is famous.
After the play, Dad and Ben were ready for a midnight snack of raw oysters, so we went outside, Dad opened the cage where we were keeping them in the water off the pier, and got some oysters to bring in.
Ben taught my Dad how to shuck an oyster.
Then Nora wanted in, so Ben opened another one and they had the first oysters of the weekend!
They had a few more raw that evening, but me, Becky, and Mom weren't looking to have our first oyster (raw) right before bed, haha, not entirely ready for that one.
Skeptical face.
We woke up the next day ready to start a day of oysters though!  Dad gathered some more into another bucket.
It was a gray day.  A beautiful gray day.  It was foggy and rainy and somehow it didn't make you feel sleepy and heavy, it was actually really cool.  So even as it started to truly rain, I stayed outside for a bit and captured it some.
When I got back inside, Ben was teaching Becky and Nora how to shuck oysters!
Ben opened his like a pro, and Becky and Nora weren't too far behind!
I then traded the camera for oyster gloves and an oyster knife (when Becky and I accidentally pack the same clothes, our similarities are even more obvious, haha).  And I tried my hand at shucking!
Becky guided me a bit, but that first oyster took me so long to open!  It is so much more force than you're expecting, and you have to get a feel for where to put the knife and how much to twist to pop it open.  I was so excited when I finally got it!
We became pros at shucking oysters, each one easier than the last.
But then came the true test.  I said I wanted to try a raw oyster.  My first oyster, I had to do it right.  Nora and I sprinkled a little hot sauce on there, and I think Becky used cocktail sauce.
Oh my goodness look at how nervous I am!  I was sweating, haha.
But Becky and I survived our first oyster!  I was relieved, and so happy I did it.  From there, the rest would be easy!  PS- I think it's very appropriate that we were wearing our "Raising the I" shirts for our first raw oyster.  Thank you to all of Matt's friends!
So we kept shucking and started preparing some dishes for lunch.  We were going to have fried oysters, fried hush puppies, baked oysters with some garlic, bacon and parmesan on top, and then some bread and a grape salad.  A little tasting menu if you will!
Dad prepared the fried oysters.
We kept shucking, hahaha, and Nora is being a pirate.
Mom made these baked oysters with the garlic, bacon and parm.
Here we are frying the hush puppies.  I kept getting really nervous around the hot oil so I finally just went inside so I would stop being the mom.
Fried hush puppies and oysters!
Our first official oyster meal of the day.
Baked oysters, hush puppies, fried oysters, grape salad, marinara sauce to dip into.  Everything was delicious!  I loved the fried oysters, they were melt in your mouth!  And the baked were great (cheese, garlic, and bacon, what can go wrong!).

Since it rained all morning I couldn't go for my run then, so after lunch, I headed out for a long run.  And Becky headed back to the playhouse to play french horn before the show again.

When Becky got back, she asked me to take some pictures of her with her horn, especially since she felt the magic of the gray day as well.  How come this day wasn't making us lethargic and bored?  Maybe Oyster Fest just makes everything exciting.
And then, because I always try to get some pictures with me in them as well, Becky took some pictures of me in the gray day.  I told her she shouldn't get my slippers in the picture, which means she immediately told me she would.
We hung out and watched college football, then were told we needed more oysters for dinner!  Since we had cleaned up our shucking stations inside, we had to go outside.  It was already dark, so we had headlamps and flashlights to help, lol.  Check out the dedication!
Many hands make light work.
Salad!
Dad made another recipe for roasting oysters with parm, breadcrumbs and other things I can't remember on the left, then just roasters on the right.
The roasted oysters with parm and breadcrumbs were probably my favorite!  The oysters weren't completely disguised, but the other ingredients really added!
Some roasted oysters with a bit of BBQ sauce added on top.
We had these oysters for appetizers before a meal of salad, baked potatoes, and marinated chicken.  For not having had oysters before, I think we did it up right!  I had five different recipes of oysters and have an order of which I liked some more than others, but there wasn't really a loser in there.  We learned a lot about the whole process and really had a great time!  Like crabs, oysters are a social experience and I loved that!
Sunday was beautiful with the clouds slowly clearing up, and it was very still on the water.  Becky, Ben and Nora went kayaking, and I stayed behind to read, then went outside and got some photos of the gorgeous outdoors.  If you look closely, you can see three white kayaks in a couple of these shots :-)
What's left of the oysters still hanging out in the water.
Thanks Mom and Dad for hosting everyone, and for letting us all try our hand at oysters!  Thanks Ben for bringing oyster knives and a lot of shucking and preparing knowledge!  Thanks Nora for coming with a healthy appetite and bringing the coolest game ever (heads up- it's an app, everyone needs it).  And thanks Becky for eating your first raw oyster at the same time as me for moral support, and taking pictures with me in them!  Fantastic first Oyster Fest everyone!

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