Now that I’ve looped around after a whole year of these shenanigans and am on my way to year two, I am concerned I may have to repeat myself. I’d like to celebrate something different every day, but ultimately, I am a slave to how the holidays fall. If today was National Oyster Day, then I would have to celebrate National Oyster Day. Moving forward though, I’ll try to mix it up what I can, if I can. Today however, I could not.
I was working for most of the day which didn’t make finding something new to celebrate any easier. I headed in at about 9:30 and I wouldn’t be done until about 7:30. I had the thought of going out for oysters after work to one of the local restaurants around here, but tension was still high in the house. When your wife is barely talking to you, you don’t really float the idea of going out for oysters especially when that’s pushing your own agenda with a disregard for hers. It just didn’t seem like the right move so I’d have to fine some other way. My instinct was to stop at Clements on the way home and pick up some oysters that I would shuck and eat. That seemed reasonable although I wasn’t sure what selection they would have available at that time of night and I knew I’d be paying top dollar for it as well.
That was my initial plan, but then when I was at work, on my lunch break, I went to the Farmer’s Market that is conveniently located on the field adjacent to the Vineyard. That’s where I get my lunch every Saturday, usually a potato, egg, cheese and sausage calzone from Olga’s Cup and Saucer. When I was at the market, I noticed that the folks at Matunuck Oysters had a booth there. I had seen their sign before but never really took notice. Those are the folks that run an oyster farm in Narragansett Bay but also have an amazing restaurant (where coincidentally we celebrated our 9th anniversary a year earlier). I walked over to see what they had going on and not surprisingly, there was a giant bin of their fresh oysters all iced up and ready to sell. They were priced at a dozen for $10 which was a bargain too – they would likely have been twice that at Clements if not more. The guy working the booth had wandered off as Farmer Market workers tend to do, so I decided to hang out and wait for him to come back while I ate my calzone. That’s when an annoying old man came over and started asking me questions about oysters. I was standing on the customer side of the booth and I was in a Newport Vineyard uniform eating a sandwich, but still this brash old man was hitting me up with the questions. I told him I thought the other guy would be coming back in a minute, but this didn’t seem to stop Old Man from demanding my customer service at the oyster booth. When the real oyster man got back, Old Man redirected his barrage of questions at him and in doing so, also jumped ahead of me in line. This was clearly someone with no regard for the laws of society or civility. He asked the oyster man, who was already visibly annoyed with Old Man, if he could open the oysters for him. The Matunuck guy clearly explained that he couldn’t do this because if she shucked oysters, it would make him a foodservice booth and he would get in trouble. That made perfect sense to me, but not to Old Man who could only scour at this news. Old Man then asked me how I was going to open them. None of his goddamned business! Sorry, but I only get a few minutes for lunch and Old Man was blowing up my spot. Old Man finally went away in a huff, most likely to ask the organic farm people if they would make him a salad. The oyster man and I traded knowing looks of relief with each other, but then we got down to business. I asked if I were to keep the oysters in the fridge for the next seven hours would they be ok, and he assured me they would be. He did warn me not to put them in the freezer because that would kill them (just good info to share). I bought my dozen and almost bought a shucking knife too on the oyster man’s suggestion, but then I shied away from that thinking it was only more clutter for our kitchen gizmo drawer. I walked back to work, put the oysters in the fridge in our break room and then went back to pouring wine.
I trudged through the rest of the workday and ended up getting home at about 8 pm. As always, I stopped at Clements on my way home and picked up a couple of things for dinner to accompany the oysters. When I got in, Lola was out in the yard. There was still tension between us but things had warmed a little. I had apologized a few times that morning and had sent a text from work saying I was sorry, so I was taking steps at building the bridge towards making amends. But we still needed a little space until we were both ready to get back to an understanding. While I was alone in the house, I decided to shuck the oysters. I am not a good oyster shucker and in fact, I’ve only done it once before when brother-in-law Pete showed us how to shuck for National Oyster Day 2016. We broadcasted a Facebook live video of his talents in action (I reposted the video below). Pete’s a talented shucker and I watched his video again to prepare myself. He made it look so easy and after watching him, I thought shucking would come right back to me. It did not. I was using a butter knife, my first mistake, so I didn’t have the right tool (the oyster man was right). The knife worked, kind of. I was able to get it into the shell and pop them open, however it didn’t always get the oyster free from the shell. Then I started breaking shells and things were going downhill from there. In the end, I was able to salvage about 8 of the 12 oysters and have them opened for eating. I was ok with that kind of productivity yield for me, although had I been working in a restaurant, I might be forcibly removed from shucking duties and placed on corn husking.
I did not have any mignonette sauce which is the vinegar based sauce that goes very well with oysters. That’s how I like to eat them but I didn’t have any shallots in house and forgot to buy them at the store. I did have some cocktail sauce that I got from Clements but that’s not really my style – too much horseradish – but Lola will lean that way. I squeezed lemon over the top of all the oysters and then I decided to gulp one down. They weren’t so bad, but my bad shucking deterred from the overall enjoyment. First, in my trying to maneuver my bulky kitchen knife around a delicate shell, I left tiny bits of shell in some of them. That’s never tasty. Plus I knocked away a lot of the brine that was in the shell and that’s a big part of enjoying oysters. Then there was the fact that they were still stuck to the shell so you had to really work at eating them like you were a starving otter. A good oyster should just slide into your mouth. These did not and that was all my fault.
When Lola came inside, I asked her if she wanted an oyster. She was a bit apprehensive at first, but decided to give it a go. She too was not impressed for all the reasons listed above. She especially caught a lot of shell in hers and that was enough for her. She went off to take a shower (because she had bug spray on her – nothing to do with me serving her shelly, brineless oysters). There was still some tension in the air between us, but there were little gestures by both of us to bridge the gap. While Lola showered, I grilled up some burgers for dinner and I will say they wound up being particularly good burgers. I finished cooking just as Lola was out of the shower and I invited her to join me, although I understood if she wasn’t feeling like it. Thankfully, she was game (and hungry). We sat on our couch together and enjoyed our dinner and watched some old Game of Thrones. Everything was still not hunky-dory, but we were a bit closer now. We were in the same space together which meant there was progress.
At some point over the years, we became fans of oysters. I’m not sure how that happened because it’s not usually the type of fare I usually go for, but every time I try them, I just like them. I like the briny taste especially when it combines with the tartness of the vinegar from the sauce and lemon. They are refreshing and every single time I order them now, I am happily surprised. I am a fan of oysters. There, I said it. I have come out of my shell. I’m a fan and I am already thinking about the next time we will get to have some. Today was about celebrating oysters and I tried to do that as best I could. I bought them from our local oyster man. I shucked them myself as a reward after a long day of work. I tried to offer them to Lola as a peace offering. And while things went awry at the shucking part, I still had the happy thought of fresh oysters running through my head throughout the day to keep me going. I can’t explain it, but they are just good and deserve all the celebration we can give them. I tried today. I really did. But no worries, there’s always another day. Next time I’ll just have to bring a shucking knife.
Next up: National Root Beer Float Day