Pearls in the Sand
Foraging for oysters with my daughter yielded a treasure trove of good food and good times.
here we live in the country, you can survive most of the warm months without ever entering a chain supermarket. Farm stands and family-owned seasonal stores are abundant. Since the corner shop sells organic milk, I went to a supermarket twice this past summer—to buy essentials like garbage bags and toothpaste.
To eat well on the eastern tip of the south fork of Long Island, New York, otherwise known as the Hamptons, you basically need a trip to town hall and $1o to buy a year-long shellfish license. The total time spent to become a legal scrounger like me is 20 minutes.
This fall has been a bountiful season for oysters, which should be plucked during the cooler months
Wthat end in the letter r. When you harvest oysters, it’s best to have a plan. In the summer, my 8-yearold daughter, Felicia, and I scouted locations within 10 miles of our home. We checked back a handful of times to make sure the oysters were still there. Unlike clams, oysters stay put in the sand, filtering water and growing big enough to throw into the stew pot.
During the first week of October, we harvested at a location that was a mere two blocks from our house. We threw the paddleboard in the car and, with a couple of string backpacks, we were on our way.
We paddled just a bit into Hog Creek. Felicia stayed on the board, singing to any wildlife that would listen, dutifully putting each oyster into one of the bags. The foraging process lasted about 20 minutes, and by the end I had at least two oyster feasts to prepare.
I wanted my fellow harvester, my partner in crime, to enjoy the seafood of her labor, so oyster stew was the first thing I made. Felicia adored it.
When we depleted our supply, we took a day off and went fishing. With bamboo poles in hand, she and I caught several blowfish that we lightly fried and snappers that my mother smoked for us. When we exhausted our smoked snapper supply, we went back to harvest more oysters.
I imagine some local hunters greatly reduce their year-round food costs with large freezers full of venison and turkey. I haven’t worked my way up to that yet; I am too busy mastering my oyster foraging skills.