He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters.
James I of England
What do you get when you add a house on the coast, a group of family and friends, a boatload of oysters and some unpredictable weather? An oyster roast, of course! And that is exactly what I experienced this weekend.
The Brunswick Years
Over thirty-five years ago, my grandfather’s younger brother held an oyster roast at his home in Brunswick, Georgia. Although his home wasn’t directly on the coast, he had a breathtaking view of the Marshes of Glynn with the St. Simons Lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean visible in the distance. He invited family and friends and over the years, the tradition mushroomed.
My husband and I experienced our first oyster roast back in 1988. We’ve attended it many years since then. Our children grew up making the trek to south Georgia to visit their cousins.
The oyster roast in Brunswick was always a treat. Besides the oysters, we enjoyed exploring the area en masse. We toured old Fort Frederica, Christ Church and the Lighthouse on St. Simons Island. We rode bicycles, learned about sea turtles and toured the winter “cottages” on Jekyll Island. We’ve experienced every kind of weather too — freezing cold, rain, wind and balmy, sunny days. There are so many good memories stored up from that little corner of south Georgia.
My Grandfather’s brother, Edgar, was affectionately known as Big Daddy. He loved the Oyster Roast almost as much as he loved our family reunion. Hospitality definitely ran in the family. As he got older, his son-in-law started taking on more of the responsibilities of planning and hosting the event. There were always a team of family and friends to help. After Big Daddy left this earth, my cousin and her husband continued the event for a couple of years. When his health began to fail, he passed the torch on to my brother.
It’s Nice In Niceville
Five years ago, the oyster roast moved to the panhandle of Florida. It was a new location yet very much the same — a home on the water, a gathering of family and friends and a bunch of oysters. They even use the same roaster they have used for years.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of going to an oyster roast, here’s what happens. Bushels of oysters are purchased and transported to the house where they are cleaned up. Family and friends arrive bearing dishes of food — dips, salads, gumbos, deviled eggs, cakes and cookies. We live a few miles from a little town famous for its delicious strawberries, so we always take several flats up for everyone to enjoy. Cousins make a dip of marshmallow fluff and cream cheese to go with the strawberries, a tradition carried over from the Brunswick years. The fire is stoked until its good and hot then the oysters are placed on top of the flat metal sheet and covered with a dampened burlap sack. Once the oysters pop open, the guys use shovels to carry the delicacies from the fire to the sawhorse tables. Everyone stands around the tables with their shuckers in hand ready to dig in. There are crackers, cocktail sauce and hot sauce if you want it. After four or five hours, everyone is stuffed.
There’s a steady sound of music, laughter and conversations — everyone enjoying each other’s company. The children run around and the teens hang out together. Rio, the family dog, sniffs around for morsels of food dropped on the ground.
A Family Tradition
I look forward to the Oyster Roast each year. It’s such a great tradition. My daughter and her husband usually come, so it’s an opportunity to spend time with them. And even though my family has a big reunion every July, it’s always fun to see my cousins at this mini reunion. And not just family, I’ve gotten to know my brother’s friends and neighbors, watched their kids grow up over the years. It was the same when we met in Brunswick. The lines between family and friends blur.
Like so many events, it ends far too soon. We hug, say goodbye and promise to keep in touch and get together soon. Another set of memories to store up until next year.
If you know me or have read my blog for a while, you probably know how important family and traditions are to me. Does your family have any special traditions like an oyster roast or a family reunion? What is your favorite family tradition?