Sunday, January 15, 2012


I know I've written about oysters in past posts, but Ocracoke shellfish are such delicacies that I can't resist mentioning them once again.

A few days ago (as we do several times each winter) a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table covered with newspapers. Steamed oysters were piled onto the papers. The only other items on the table were a small bowl of cocktail sauce, a small bowl of melted butter, saltines, a few oyster knives, and cans of beer.

For a couple of hours we just sat at the table, opened oysters, dipped them in butter or cocktail sauce, plopped them in our mouths (with or without crackers), and washed them down with cold beer. Oh, we also laughed a lot, and told jokes, and stories of nautical mishaps.

It would be difficult to imagine a simpler, more delicious, or more satisfying evening meal!

Here are a couple of photos:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:


  1. Sounds like a perfect meal. My husband is the oyster steamer in our family and the kids fight over who gets the last one.

  2. debbie s.1:20 PM

    funny you write this today - on a similar note, my husband asked me i would go clamming (he's disabled and can't) next time were out there.

  3. Anonymous1:36 PM


  4. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Good beer choice

  5. Anonymous9:39 PM

    Self-caught recently, or store-bought? (I don't know if weather conditions are conducive to oystering this time of year.)

    And I've seem oyster-shell "pavers" on Howard Street before. Is that where dead soldiers such as these typically come to rest, or do they find their way out with the rest of the day-to-day household refuse, or make their way to some other typical resting ground (a household shell pile perhaps, or back to the waves from whence they came)?

    Just curious.

  6. Oyster Lover7:36 AM

    Sin, I see somebody isn't eating their crabs......

  7. Anonymous7:58 AM

    That looks good some.

  8. Anonymous8:09 AM

    Oh boy! Oh boy!!!!!!

    Making me so hungry!

  9. The oysters were purchased on the mainland, but were local, Pamlico Sound oysters. That night I learned that at least one Ocracoke fisherman also has oysters for sale this winter. It has been a number of years since I have harvested oysters myself (For one thing, I loaned my oyster tongs to someone and never got them back).

    Sometimes oyster shells are laid on Howard Street to harden the road; Friday night's shells were returned to the sound in order to build up a cultch.

    Many islanders, including myself, have shell piles in the yard. These are mostly clam shells. I will post a photo on the blog one day soon.

    About the small crabs that live inside oyster and clam shells -- I, at least, was eating mine! When my dad opened clams in his yard he used to entertain tourists by letting those crabs crawl around on his tongue before eating them.

  10. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Always learn something new (crabs) from your blog--but what is a cultch?

  11. A cultch is a pile of oyster shells (or rock or other material) that spat (oyster spawn) attach to.

  12. Anonymous1:03 PM

    That makes 3 new facts to ponder--thanks. Hope you get your oyster tongs back.

  13. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Do we need to put out an APB on the missing oyster tongs? The tongs bound to be somewhere on Ocracoke Island....accidentally stored in a lone kitchen drawer. Who could possibly be the culprit? Perhaps this blog will remind the offender and he/she will politely return the tongs to Philip. :)

    Also, thanks for explaining "clutch". This NC Mainlander was clueless, too.

  14. Anonymous6:43 PM


    You're like Johnnie Wonder!

    So the word is cultch vs. clutch, correct?

    And as for oyster tongs, I guess I was wrongly envisioning clamming with a rake. So, how DOES one go oystering?

    As always--thanks for the insight.

  15. Yes, the word is cultch.

    Oyster tongs are scissor-like devices with long (about 8' long) wooden handles and a row of metal teeth or prongs on the ends. Oystering is done in boats by lowering the tongs into the water and grabbing the oysters with the metal teeth by working the handles.

    Since I don't know where my oyster tongs are I can't make a photo for you. But you can do an Internet search for "oyster tong" to see images. Here is a vintage photo from Florida:

  16. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Some of your readers who can't always enjoy a fabulous meal like this might be interested in a place we found on the mainland in Williamston NC. Courtesy of Irene, we had to stay inland and additional night to get on a ferry in September there. We drove by this run down funky, housey looking building with a groovy neon sign "Sunny Side Oyster Bar" next to the hotel. Of course funky is just our speed so we went there to find a rather normal looking room with a bar and just a few tables wondering, so, where's it at? Then directed down a short flight of stairs to this oyster bar right out of mid century (think it's been there like 50 years) Big rectangular counter-sawdust on the floor behind, with a crew of burly men behind trucking food to those of us bellying up to the bar for some vittles. Basically it's a beverage of your choice (beer) and buckets of oysters, scallops, shrimp, or crab clusters. No sides. Ya got a bowl of butter, and several sauces, crackers and just went to it. Of course the locals were eye balling us yankees and our server, "Geeze" had as hard a time understanding us as we did his low country drawl but we got along great! I would really recommend this place to travelers to O! It was amazing! SueM