So, I submitted two stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. The one on my Improve Class called Yes, Please! is on to the final round. The other one, about the first time I tried oysters in New Orleans with my Dad, didn’t get chosen, but it is near and dear to my heart. So here it is.
“He was a brave man that first ate an oyster.” Jonathan Swift
A Most Unusual Dessert
My Dad was an airline pilot for National Airlines, based in Miami, Florida. Sometimes, he would take my younger sister Kelley and I on his trips, especially if he had a layover in a fun city. One such trip he took us on was to New Orleans, when we were 10 and 13 years old.
We visited during Mardi Gras and, as we stood on the on the side of the street, decorated floats drove by, throwing colorful beads out into the screaming crowds. Bands went by as well, strutting and swaying down the street, playing brassy, joyous music. They played everything from traditional tunes to Stevie Wonder’s latest hit. It was a party like none I’d ever been to.
After the festivities, we stopped at a crowded restaurant for lunch. We sat down and ordered; my sister Kelley ordered a hamburger.
“Kelley, we’re in a city with some of the greatest food in the world and you’re ordering a hamburger?” my dad asked, incredulously.
I can’t remember what I ordered, but, after that rebuke, it definitely wasn’t a hamburger.
We finished lunch and proceeded to walk around New Orleans, taking in Bourbon Street- the houses with beautiful, wrought iron balconies, gas lit lanterns and the crowds of rowdy people. My Dad led us down a side street.
“Oh, come on,” he said. “We have to go in here.”
Here was Felix’s, one of my dad’s favorite restaurants in New Orleans.
We entered the dark space and sat down on metal stools in front of a long, marble counter. Behind the counter was a man hard at work, shucking oysters with an oyster knife. As he finished opening each oyster, he set the frilly shells on metal trays filled with chipped ice.
“You guys need to try an oyster,” my dad said.
It was kind of a weird dessert and I had never even seen- much less eaten- an oyster before, but my dad wasn’t someone you argued with, so I agreed. I put the grey blob in my mouth and swallowed; it was cold, slimy and mushy. Not the best thing I’d ever eaten, but I didn’t die.
My sister Kelley wasn’t so easy to convince. She had absolutely no desire to try this food, that admittedly, didn’t look particularly appetizing. My Dad doctored the oyster up with cocktail sauce and a squirt of lemon juice, placed it on a cracker and handed it to her.
To her credit, she did try it.
“Yuk! That’s disgusting,” she said.
To this day (at age 60) Kelley still doesn’t like oysters. I, on the other hand, love oysters and eat them any opportunity I get, especially if I’m in an area where they are local.
But the thing I remember about that day was how my dad was always trying to introduce us to new experiences, new cities and new foods. He was a type-A, adventurous personality, always wanting to try whatever local food the city he was in featured, no matter how strange and different it was. He was bold and brave and that inspired me- a shy little girl who loved reading about adventures but rarely had them- to try and be the same.
I returned to Felix’s many times since that first time my dad took my sister and me. It’s the first place I stop when I visit New Orleans and I always order a dozen raw oysters. While I sit there and slurp the cold, briny delicacies, I think of my dad (now gone) and how if you try something different- even something you think you might not like- it just may become one of your favorite things.
So, I always do visit Felix’s every time I visit New Orleans and get the raw oysters. Zeke suggested trying the Chargrilled Oysters on one visit, as he’d heard about him on the Food Network. I pooh-poohed him, thinking nothing could beat raw but we got them and OMG! I’ll never give up my raw oysters, but these Chargrilled Oysters from Felix’s are amazing and served with some garlic toast to sop up the buttery goodness. Here’s the recipe.
Felix’s Chargrilled OystersCourse: EntreeCuisine: CajunDifficulty: Medium
16 ounces liquid margarine
2 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
Crystal Hot Sauce
- Bread Crumb Topping Ingredients
8 ounces Italian bread crumbs
8 ounces Parmesan cheese
- Combine sauce ingredients.
- Open oysters and place on a metal cookie sheet. Put bread crumb topping on top.
- Place oysters on a medium-hot grill and grill for one minute.
- Pour sauce over oysters.
- Remove from grill, place in bowl and serve with toasted french bread.
- I used butter (and less of it) instead of margarine.
- This recipe is for a lot of oysters, so feel free to cut it down. Or save the sauce for another bunch of oysters.
It seems like a lot of ingredients for the sauce, but it comes together quickly. Enjoy!
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