My Momma’s Scalloped Oysters
In 1621 the Plymouth colonists learned a lot about surviving in the new world from the Wampanoag tribe. They were taught how to plant crops, hunt, harvest wild foods and how to reap the vast bounties from the streams, lakes and sea. Back in those days fish and shellfish were plentiful. Many of the same species we love today like striped bass, cod, bluefish, tautog, flounder, clams, mussels, lobsters and crabs were staples.
What is known today as the first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration. The feast that included the Wampanoag, according to some historians, may have been a happening that came about by accident. Hearing gunshots from colonists hunting game, some of the natives thought they might be under attack by their new neighbors. When they realized that it was not a threat but a party going on, they brought five deer with lots of other foods and joined in. The eating, dancing, singing and playing of games went on for three days! No one knows for sure exactly what was on the menu, but wild game like venison, fowl such as geese and duck, vegetables that surely included corn, and most certainly plenty of fish and shellfish were served.
Today’s typical Thanksgiving feast doesn’t include much food from the sea. It’s funny that the one shellfish that many of us enjoy, oysters, were probably not part of the original celebration. The waters off Plymouth were full of clams and mussels but the big oyster beds were off other parts of the coast like Boston and Cape Cod. By the 1800’s oysters were becoming a regular at the Thanksgiving table. They were so popular and cheap back in those days that they naturally worked their way into the feast.
Oyster stuffing and casseroles like scalloped oysters are now a must for many families, including my own. My mom makes an amazing traditional scalloped oyster dish that she probably learned from her mom who probably learned it from her mom. Crunchy, creamy, rich and loaded with sweet plump oysters, I look forward to it all year long.