Opening Oysters with a Marlinspike at the Deltaville Oyster Roast

In the past year and a half, I have spent far more time in a boatyard in Deltaville, VA on the Rappahannock River than I would have imagined or intended. While I have not necessarily had great luck with repairs in the boatyard along the Rappahannock, I will say that I do love Rappahannock oysters.

I am now in Deltaville, trying to get my boat ready to sail North. After sweltering in over 90 degree heat yesterday; cleaning, working on, and loading the boat; I stopped by the Deltaville Oyster Roast sponsored by the local volunteer fire department. The roast was in a large open field behind the firehouse. At a wooden pavilion, which provided some shade from the still hot sun, hundreds of folks sat at picnic benches and ate oysters, lots and lots of oysters. The oysters were fried, roasted, steamed, or raw. Immediately behind the pavilion, men worked over open fires, either raking oysters in their shells on  grates over open fires, or spreading out the oysters on iron plates over fires which they covered with wet burlap to steam them.

When the oysters were sufficiently roasted or steamed, young men would load up large buckets and baskets and spread out through the pavilion, dumping small mountains of oysters out in front of those partaking. Some of the steamed or roasted oysters, still in their shells, had opened while cooking and others had not. Looking over at the locals feasting on mounds of oysters, I saw that they had brought their own knives to shuck the oysters whose shells had not opened.  

This posed a problem for me. I do have a good oyster shucking knife at home, but that was close to 400 miles away. I did have my rigging knife and marlinspike in my pocket, however. The rigging knife’s blade was just slightly too thin, but the tip of the marlinespike worked just fine.

The raw oysters were so delicious that it seemed to be a shame to cook them. The fried oysters were fine, but nothing too special, whereas the roasted oysters had a wonderful smoky flavor but often were a bit dried out.  The steamed oysters on the other hand, particularly those whose shells had not opened had a delicate almost buttery flavor. 

So, the moral of the story is enjoy life’s oysters whenever you can and always carry a marlinspike.

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3 Responses to Opening Oysters with a Marlinspike at the Deltaville Oyster Roast

  1. Jan Christensen says:

    A fine, tasty yarn you’ve spun, Rick! Makes me hungry.

  2. I like my oysters. Last spring I bought a hundred count sack of Chesapeakes. I found the shells a little chalky for knife opening…the bottom shell would kind of disintegrate under the wedge action of the knife. After frustration with the first fifty, I roasted the rest. I guess I’m a locavore chauvinist; I really like my Wellfleet oysters.

  3. Rick Spilman says:

    It is interesting that the Wellfleet oysters native to Massachusetts and Atlantic oyster native to South Carolina are essentially the same oyster — the Crassostrea virginica.

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