It's the day before Thanksgiving, and we are doing what many people are doing: slicing and dicing, peeling and defrosting. The work goes much easier when two people are doing it together. So far we have worked our way through potatoes, apples, turnips and carrots. The turkey is defrosting nicely. And all the supplies are basically gathered except for one: oysters.
So what day before Thanksgiving would be complete without a run on the river to the oyster beds? Here are some scenes from the morning's trip.
Tidewater Virginia Oyster Stew from Syd
2 pints shucked oysters with their liquid (or liquor as my father called it)
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk (a little added cream may be added to make it richer)
2 crisp slices of bacon minced
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan over medium heat, cook the bacon. Shred the pieces. Then melt butter and saute the minced celery.
Add oysters, their liquid and milk; simmer very gently for about 2 to 4 minutes or until the gills and edges of the oysters curl. It's important to not overcook the oysters. No need to boil the milk! Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat. Serve in warm soup bowls. And if there are any pea crabs with the oysters, cook them up too. They are considered good luck if you get one in your stew!
Tonight after several weeks of Wednesday night classes, I will be rowing with the team again. I feel like saying the infamous Tony Heyward quote: "I want my life back." Well, now that classes are done, I have my life back and can stretch some arm and leg muscles. I know that it will feel good. Nothing like pulling on an oar for an hour to get some good honest sweat and endorphins moving.
Finally, a bit of history about Thanksgiving. Supposedly, the first Thanksgiving in America took place in 1619, two years before the colonists arrived in Massachusetts.
Capt. John Woodlief, a survivor of the Jamestown settlement's "starving time" who had returned to England, set sail with 37 other settlers on the good ship Margaret to seek their fortune in the New World. After a violent storm blew them off course, they waded ashore Dec. 4, 1619 at what is now Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. They opened their orders from their backers, which stated that they were to drop to their knees immediately and give thanks. Their landing date was to "be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."
No one knows if they had anything other than old ship rations to eat. Historians surmise that they might have supped on roasted oysters and Virginia ham. Others say their feast included bacon, peas, cornmeal cakes, and cinnamon water.
I think that we have part of that covered for tomorrow. Now to go shuck those oysters.