As bbq is the result of food and history, so is the mighty oyster, and therefore, I think deserves a special place on our plate here at Smoking Mo’s.
Growing up in Oklahoma I had little to no exposure to oysters. Our seafood came cornmeal fried, a technique by the way that I’ve applied to oysters here. It is a true Oklahoma meets Washington story, a genuine reflection of who I am, and that I believe is what a menu should be. These foods we serve should tell a story. Our menu should allow a glimpse into who the creator is and what they’re wanting to say. As my business grows into our new location, it’s time for me to grow as a food provider too. I’m ready to dive deeper into the dishes that I love and the dishes that I want to know better. Thankfully our ample coastline here is making that an easy and enjoyable task. Also thankfully, you make for good company on this adventure!
My college journey led me to the magnificent Low Country of South Carolina. To my complete and total surprise, oyster roasts ruled the party scene there. Shuckin’ was a new way of life to me, one that would honestly take a little time for me to adapt to. I freely admit I hated my first oyster…. Honestly I hated oysters for almost a decade after discovering them. I didn’t like them raw, so I surmised I didn’t like them at all. It wasn’t until a trip back down memory lane a few years ago that the oyster and I were properly introduced. Tom and I had taken a vacation down to Savannah. We found two seats at an oyster bar there, mostly just looking for a drink and some air conditioning. Tom feeling in the spirit ordered oysters, I opted for peel and eat shrimp. Soon though a giant tray of delicious smelling, smoking oysters was set in front of him. It smelled like the best beach day ever. I smiled, beside myself. He immediately got after them with a trio of fresh lemon, cocktail sauce and hot sauce. He kicked one back on a saltine. The next one went down drizzled with some sort of vinegary goodness. Wait…. How did I miss all of these extras? How had I not noticed before all of the fun that accompanies these little sea nuggets. I had to try one now, and Tom enthusiastically invited me to join him. This was a moment I think he had been waiting for, the day I learned to love oysters. These particular oysters were steamed, an option I did not know existed, and one that proved to be a gentle stepping stone as I made my way to the deep end. I loaded my cracker, and I took my first step. Though I had tasted oysters before, I consider this particular oyster to truly be my first. A Hog Island Small Sweetwater. And that’s exactly what it tasted like. Sweet ocean water, a day at the beach, a celebration. I felt happy, genuinely happy. I washed it down with cold beer and moved on to the second one. Tom and I laughed our way through that entire tray, a dozen I think it was. We ordered another dozen, they refilled our beers, and the party continued. To this very day, that remains one of my most favorite and most cherished meal memories of all time. I fell in love with my husband again. I fell in love with the feeling of the South again. And I made a new friend in the oyster.
Upon our return to Washington State I was bound and determined to find this joy closer to home. Thankfully for me the Hama Hama Oyster Company was up to the challenge. A trip to their newly expanded Oyster Saloon provided the proper backdrop, the oysters and beer provided the rest. It was here that I truly started to learn the nuances and differences in oysters. Yes, to be honest, there are still some oysters I don’t like as much as others. There are some toppings I prefer to others as well. And yes, the East Coast saltine cracker thing stuck with me. But what I always love is the feeling that a tray of oysters brings to any table. The party plate arrives and everyone dives in smiles first. It’s fun to eat oysters!
So as any good food friend would do, I wanted to share that fun with my own customers. We added a small oyster bar to our existing bar area. We met a few local oyster farmers, hired a bartender that could fill in the gaps in our oyster education, and we got to shucking. That was a few years ago, and so far it has been a fun and welcomed addition to our menu. I can also say it feels good to be able to offer a very local food option to our guests. To me it has served as the twine that holds our whole menu and identity together. We are the South, and we are Pac NW. BBQ meets oysters! But as I do, I’m eager for the next adventure. And so for the meanwhile you’ll be able to occasionally find baked or grilled oysters on our special board. I’m having a blast experimenting with what ingredients we have on hand here, and finding new ways to tie my journey together here with you. Pimento cheese and bacon, a traditional Carolina topping favorite last week, this week collard greens and pork, because summer and greens go so well together. I don’t know what I’ll come up with next, but man it sure is fun here in the deep end!
BBQ is my life, and this restaurant is my oyster!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. It is my true belief that we make the world a better place and our experience in it richer if we share our experience together. I do that through food at my restaurant Smoking Mo’s in Shelton, Washington, and through my story telling here. I deeply thank you for joining me on this adventure, and for giving me the love and encouragement to keep moving forward.
2 comments on “Out of my shell.”
Wow! Bravo! Loving oysters is a journey for so many, and you tell this story so well. So glad you landed in Shelton!
Love the journey!