Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Slurping up oysters on Christmas morning

Legend has it that oyster stew made its slithery and lavish way from Ireland to the States during the potato famine of the mid 1800s. Upon settling in the grand US of A, the Irish substituted oysters for ling fish, the suddenly elusive staple they were so accustomed to enjoying in their Christmas Eve stew back in the motherland. As time progressed, various ethnic households in America began attaching themselves to this revamped Irish tradition, drowning themselves in the rich broth and briny taste of the sea. Prized for its soulful characteristics, oyster stew is slurped at many American homes on Christmas Eve, the kind of heart-stamped soup that brings about feelings of warmth and camaraderie among family.

A similar sense of good fellowship was also present when we gathered closely around the kitchen table of Matt's mom (Vicki) and stepdad (Ron) in Manns Choice, PA, to partake in a hearty dose of oyster stew ourselves. We slightly tweaked tradition by reserving the fragrant brew for an early morning Christmas breakfast. Extended family members puttered along the drive way car by car and bounced in bellowing a gleeful "merry Christmas" and "happy holidays."

Our eyes rolled back toward our heads, drunk with cheer from the nautical liquor of the oysters and the creamy but light textures of the stew. This wanton crew dove in for seconds of Vicki's knockabout batch, no doubt also drawn to the kicked-up jabs of onions and stream of lusty Worcestershire sauce. Button-shaped oyster crackers provided a nice touch of crunch as they floated shiftlessly in the stew. Minutes later, their soggy disposition upped the oyster stew's heartiness.

Fried oyster critters were also on hand during this vibrant morning. Family members took turns dipping the Parmesan and panko-coated babies into the deep fryer. Some folks topped their bowls of stew with these golden-crusted bivalves while others jammed them into slices of Italian bread to create a robust sandwich, the oyster 'po boy of Christmas morning if you will. Fully sated with this season's bevy of oysters, we ended the morning with cups of heavy duty coffee, mugs of cider tinged with a bit of naughtiness and Christmas cookies galore, homemade by Vicki (pizzells, potato candy, sugar cookies, fruit bars). The only thing we were shucking this day was our weighted down belly! 

1 comment:

Vicki said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments about our annual family breakfast. We were so thrilled that you and Matt could join us. Those sugar cookies were my first attempt at sand tarts....if you hold them up and can see through them they are a sand tart....otherwise the sandtart judges fail them! And the fruit bars are my tribute to MY MOTHER who always treated family and friends with Brazil Nut Bars. Happy New Year!