20 March 2015

“Ersters”

Some people say it that way. From what I've read, it's a pronunciation that you might here in New York or New Orleans, and I know it is also heard on the North Carolina coast. Some people say something like "oishters" as well. I'm talking about oysters...

 Looking east from the cemetery out over Calico Creek

The creek my mother lives by is full of oysters, as you'll see from my photos. When I say "creek" I mean a tidal creek, not a stream or brook. In our area, there are a lot of tidal creeks, including Broad Creek, Gales Creek, Pelletier Creek, and Hoop Pole Creek — as well as Calico Creek, which runs for a few miles past my mother's retirement apartment complex and flows into the estuary of the coastal water feature called Newport River.

Bancs d'huîtres — "oishter" beds — in Calico Creek

We ate oysters for dinner last night. We were invited to a kind of a mini family reunion with cousins of ours. Families are complicated, and while we are not really first cousins but cousins several times removed with these relatives, we all grew up together as if we were close cousins. We were a good-sized clan of people descended from Benjamin and Ida Willis of Morehead City, and we all lived in the same neighborhood. Now we are all in our 60s or older.

"Ersters"

The cousin who invited us still lives just two doors down from the house I grew up in — he inherited his house from his parents. He "roasted" live oysters for our dinner. That means he put them in a big pot, with a little bit of water in the bottom, and set the pot on a gas burner outside for a few minutes until the "oishsters" were lightly steamed and had started to pop open. They're served with a hot cocktail sauce (tomatoes or ketchup with some vinegar and horseradish added).

 A shore bird among the oysters

The feast included a batch of sauteed shrimp with herbs, garlic, and olive oil, along with a basket of pan-fried cornbread and a plateful of crab cakes made with crabmeat from the local blue crabs. For dessert, we had a lemon meringue pie and a key lime pie, which is similar but made with limes instead of lemons.

Looking west up Calico Creek toward my mother's apartment complex

The photos above are of oyster beds in Calico Creek at low tide. The town cemetery is on the edge of the creek, and I took a "photo walk" around the cemetery yesterday afternoon before we went to the oyster roast.

12 comments:

  1. That is either quite a small ibis... or thoise are very large oysters!!

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  2. That meal sounds delicious. The oysters and crabs are local, you said, but do you know where the shrimp are from?

    You remind me that my grandparents said "ersters," and they were from Pennsylvania.

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    1. We were in Edenton today. We drove past Capt. Bob's Seafood and BBQ on the road between there and Hertford. Isn't that a place you told me about?

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  3. Thanks Ken... I also looked it up on Whackypedia... those are LARGE oysters!
    The NC site is a very good local bird site... I didn't stop at the ibis and had a trawl...
    speaking as a bird-watcher, it would be nice if other countries did the same!
    We've got Faune-Touraine for here... but it doesn't give information like this...
    it is more a "citizen-science" project of recording what is seen where...
    and feeds back to the Natural History Museum.
    The only thing we've got for here is the local naturalists' bird book...
    now almost 20 years out of date...
    as are most bird books, no matter when published...
    distribution has usually changed by the date of publication!!

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    1. Those are what we call "cluster oysters" so what looks like one oyster might be three or four oysters stuck together. But, yes, they are big.

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  4. My dad pronounced oysters like that. What a feast you had- the benefit of coastal living!

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  5. What a treat! So coastal, so fresh, so full of family :)

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  6. You made me very hungry!

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  7. Obviously, Ken, you grew up with other "foodies" who knew how to utilize the local foods to good advantage! What a meal! I can taste it right now and I'm full from having my breakfast! You are one lucky guy!!!

    Mary in Oregon

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  8. From what I read online recently, Captain Bob's has gone way downhill, so I'm glad you drove past.

    We plan to go to Edenton and other areas along the coast next month with a friend who's never been to that part of NC. Your photos are whetting my appetite.

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