A Carolina Fisherman’s Christmas…..Steamed Oysters
When it comes to Christmas, the folks along the Carolinas celebrate like most parts of the country. You know, with a fresh cut Christmas tree; none of that artificial junk like the people in the big cities put up. The tree has to be as big as your house will hold. Mine is only about 9 foot this year. It’s loaded with 40 years accumulation of ornaments that bear the names of our kids and grandkids. That’s a lot of construction paper yarn and glitter considering we have 7 of them combined. We also have a few ornaments that are extra special. Like the little United States Marine ornament that reminds us of the Christmas our son was serving in Iraq. That was the year a single candle burned in the window beside the “Blue Star” flag. Another special decoration is the big red bow that has graced the top of our tree for the nearly 42 years that we have been a family.
Many of our kids have moved off to places like Atlanta, New Orleans and California (I didn’t even know they had Christmas in California). I thought they were too busy surfing and eating tofu to know about Christmas. Anyway, since most of the kids are elsewhere, we enjoy what has become a traditional Carolina Christmas. We get into our sweatshirts, jeans, and best most faded fishing hat, and call the neighbors for a good old fashion Christmas gathering. That involves hot, spicy Brunswick stew, a bushel or 2 of oysters that are steamed to perfection. We get ours at Seaview Seafood in Wilmington. Anthony and Jonathon are our go-to guys. They always throw in a few extra oysters in the spirit of the holiday.
Now, you’ve got to understand that we do this outside. An oyster roast in the house is like inviting your former in-laws to your wedding. Something is bound to go wrong. Besides my wife never did like it when I brought the fire pit in the house.
For a great neighborhood Coastal Carolina Christmas gathering you only need a few things:
- Oysters and lots of them
- A steam pot with water
- Gas burner to heat the water
- Miss Kathy’s famous Brunswick Stew (a recipe that she got from the Presbyterian women)
- Loads of bread
- Homemade cocktail sauce hot enough to melt a car hood (store bought ain’t allowed)
- A table full of desserts
- Lot’s of ice to chill the bourbon and beer
- Matches to light the cooker and my cigar
- Paper towels to wipe the oyster mud off your hands
We start by meeting together sipping sweet tea, adult beverages and nibbling on snacks like my homemade smoked Andouille Sausage filled with sharp cheddar cheese, or fried dill pickles. We sit around the fire and swap lies about the year’s fishing while the water comes to a boil in the steam pot. With the first batch steaming, we gather around the table and thank God for our families, freedom and great bounty we’re about to receive. At that time, you really understand and appreciate the meaning of Christmas traditions.
When it’s time to eat, we dump those hot steaming oysters on the big table and start shucking. I have a special formula for eating mine. It’s eating 12 oysters followed by a sip of bourbon and repeat. I follow it up with a big bowl of Miss Kathy’s Brunswick Stew. After about 3 pecks of oysters and a couple of bowls of stew and more drinks than I’ll admit to, it’s time to change the pace of things with a sampling of the desserts the ladies have created. As the evening rolls on, you start to think of all the Christmases past and how one was special in its own sort of way. Like the year I was 10 and got a horse for Christmas. Or when I was 13 and got a set of drums. But best of all was the year my wife announced just before our family Christmas part that she was expecting our first child. That child is now 40 years old. It’s all about the great times we’ve had and those yet to come. It’s about great family and friends all coming together. It’s all about oysters, bourbon and Brunswick stew on a chilly night. It’s about a Coastal Carolina Fisherman’s Christmas.