Oct 10, 201211:12 AMFood & Dining
Tasty Tidbits and Food For Thought
The Weekend Is My Oyster, Pt. II
The weekend (if unfortunately not the world) was my Oyster. As I mentioned in my last offering, after a long three months of work, I had made time in my busy schedule to set aside a four-day weekend to head to Chincoteague, Virginia for the 40th Annual Oyster Festival.
Chincoteague is an Indian term meaning “beautiful land across the water.” It lies off the coast of Virginia and is adjacent to the barrier island of Assateague, where the beach and nature preserve is located, and which is now a National Park.
The area has a long history of oyster farming, and although the original wild oysters are no longer there, oysters from Chincoteague are now successfully seeded and aqua-cultured. They are distributed to food vendors up and down the east coast. The oysters harvested are commonly referred to as Chincoteague Salt Oysters, as due to natural conditions they are meatier and considerably more salty than other types.
Waking the Saturday morning of OysterFest, the weather was perfect. It was 80 degrees and sunny, just like a perfect summer day. We arrived at about 11:00 am to set up our portable tent. At noon, the fire siren blew which signaled that serving would begin.
I was already in the long line for Oysters on the half shell. Here, they are fresh shucked on location. When I arrived at the front of the line, I put a dollar in the tip jar and got a purple Mardi Gras bead necklace as a reward. I slurped down two plates of raw oysters and anxiously got in line for fried single oysters, clam fritters, and steamed oysters.
While the lines were somewhat long, I took the opportunity to talk to the people standing in line next to me. Soon an arduous wait turned into interesting conversation. I met people from several other states, and also had a long conversation with a couple from Lancaster, Pa.
After eating our fill, we walked around the fair ground to check out the crowd. It is common practice to decorate your tent area as a prize is given for the best group. At OysterFest, people often dress up in silly costumes and our group went with a Hawaiian theme this year. Looking about, I also spied pirates, duck hunters, scottish kilt wearers, sports fans, and several goofy hats and masks.
I bought a festive oyster necklace from an adorable little kid hocking them for $10 a piece. Given the amount of similar necklaces I saw around the festival, I would bet that this kid probably had a handsome deposit for his 529 plan at the end of the day!
After about two hours of chowing down, the crowd around us headed to the dance floor. At times the dance area looked like a disco at the World Nations for Imaginary Characters, as there were so many costumed people dancing.
At around 3:00 p.m. the announcer awarded the prize for the best decorated tent. The young woman representing the winners, named “Shuck Dynasty” stepped up to the stage to claim her prize and stayed there to dance during the band’s version of the Michael Jackson tune “Billy Jean.” Following her act, we danced to Doobie Brothers songs, bad 80's tunes, funk and line dances. The party was in full swing as a saxaphone player came out in the crowd to do a solo.
There were octogenarians doing the jitterbug, babies, and people dancing with others they had just met. We begged for an encore and sang along to one final cheesy song while the band’s kids and grandkids played backup singers on stage.
We set aside jobs, cell phones, kids, clients, and relatives, and enjoyed ourselves in small sacred space where those things did not pressure us. And for a brief, fleeting moment or two I felt united with all these odd people dancing, in the simple enjoyment of life, music, good food, and a gorgeous sunny afternoon where we all understood the importance of making it an occasional priority to set aside the crushing responsibility of our daily lives to have a little bit of fun and relax.
People say that I am lucky - and admittedly and thankfully I am. It’s not easy, but I have found that part of being lucky is setting priorities and making the effort to set aside a little time and money to do things I enjoy. The rest will come naturally.
The band finished at 4:30 pm... much too early in my opinion. Sadly, it was time to leave. I looked to the west. Rain clouds were rolling in and people were leaving.The weatherman was predicting rain through Sunday. We packed our gear and left. The brief respite was over too quick. But I was grateful to have had an hour or two to enjoy my escape in the sun.