Cranky and I were called away from California sometime in the early 80s for a three-year stint in Florida — where I ate my first raw oysters on the half shell.
It was a tentative introduction to bivalves in Cocoa Beach. The shucker (knowing I was a novice) would open an oyster and slide it over to me on the bar. No ice. No fancy mignonette. There was lemon and Tabasco, take it or leave it. Saltines if you needed them.
I made it through about six oysters before my personal organic system had to withdraw. Whew.
But I was hooked.
Before long I was eating raw oysters by the dozen (or more), in Key West, St. Pete, Winter Park, Ft. Myers. Always with the lemon and Tabasco.
All good things must pass, however, and we returned to California.
A colleague of Cranky's in San Francisco learned that our pretty little Edwardian two-story in the Glen Park neighborhood had a brick barbecue pit. She had won some contest, and needed to pick up a sack or two of fresh oysters in the shell. Might we be amenable to holding a BBQ oyster party in our back yard for a dozen or so people we didn't know?
Well, that was a big fat no. And I'll tell you why.
It wasn't because we didn't know anyone. It was because she wanted to cook the oysters. Barbecue them! Lady, you are talking to a newborn slurper; we don't eat them cooked.
But see, I hadn't lived close enough to Marin County to know the deep, abiding legacy of the barbecued oyster. And as far as I'm now concerned (having become a dedicated convert), there is only one way to make them. If you're not going to eat them raw.
1) Start a fire.
2) Put the oysters on the grill.
3) When the top shells pop open from the heat, wrench them off (using gloves), and apply a Bordelaise sauce, New Orleans style, to the plump meat. (Today I just used melted butter, vermouth and minced chives.) Put them back on the grill.
4) As soon as the oysters shrink away from their shells, yank them off the fire and top each with a zesty (but not stupid) tomato BBQ sauce. Must be vinegary and a tad sweet.
I had one barbecued oyster today. Sadly only one. See, the smoker was otherwise crowded with cured pork and duck meats. It's all that would fit. More later.