Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eating Locally

"I didn't eat all of these oysters--but I could have!"
One goal, on this boat trip, has been "eating locally."  We visit farmer's markets, and we eat at restaurants that feature local ingredients, and we pore over grocery-store shelves to find local products such as meats, cheeses, honey, and flour.  

Right now we're in Apalachicola, Florida, where the most famous locally produced food item is oysters.  

One in ten oysters eaten in American restaurants comes from this little patch of protected waters. Ten percent of the residents are oyster fishermen.  Some streets are paved with oyster shells. The local radio station is "Oyster Radio." 

Of course you are wondering, has this area been affected by oil from the Deep Horizon spill?  

Well, oil did NOT enter Apalachicola bay this past summer, as locals feared it might.  The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services tests shellfish for oil contamination and certifies that local oysters are safe to eat. 

At Boss Oyster, patrons suggest toppings.  The good
ones get put on the menu.  You're looking at
wasabi fish roe (left) and Cuban black beans (right)
Oh happy day!  Oysters are one of the Captain's favorite foods.  

BP has also agreed to pay for three years of testing on Florida seafood--plus a marketing campaign. We walked by the BP "community center" on the waterfront yesterday, and a woman came literally running out to hand us a glossy brochure touting the safety of local seafood.

There have been local economic impacts from the spill, though.  Immediately afterward, many local oystermen went to work on BP's clean-up crews.  With fewer boats on the water and fewer oysters coming in, warehouses couldn't meet demand.

Aw, shucks.
The winter "oyster harvest season" opened this past November with regulators allowing oystermen to work seven days a week, instead of the usual five days.  A record number of fisherman filed for $600 oyster licenses (1,800 licenses this year, compared to 1,400 last year.)  

And now, local oyster processors say, there are plenty of oysters, but (perhaps because of the economy) demand is down . . . even though oyster sales usually boom at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So--strictly as concerned citizens, you understand--we're going to eat lots of oysters while we're here.  It's our Patriotic Duty as Americans.  We're prepared to step up to the plate.

P.S.  For more oyster photos, CLICK HERE

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