Old 02-26-2007, 09:44 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: The great PNW.
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Freshwater oysters?

I'm reading some blurbs taken from an 1896 Cadiz, Ohio newspaper and I see this line:
An oyster supper and social will be given at the Hotel Stone Friday evening, Dec 23rd.

Are there freshwater oysters? This appears to be a casual affair, not some fancy affair where they could afford to have oysters shipped in from the coast, so I'm assuming there must be a freshwater oyster that grew in a local lake, or river?
This is NE Ohio.
Old 02-26-2007, 09:52 AM
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Location: NoWA
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It's before coffee, and a search on "freshwater oysters" turns up a bunch of site selling 'freshwater pearls'. Not awake enough to dig deeper.

I have some books on the Old West. I remember seeing photographs of mining towns in which there are banners or signs advertising that an establishment has fresh oysters. Apparently it was not uncommon for oysters to be shipped in from the East Coast.
Old 02-26-2007, 09:59 AM
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: in a Moot
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Freshwater Mussells for sure...And I think the pearls come from those... Never heard of fresh water oysters though.
Old 02-26-2007, 10:04 AM
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Imagine Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday or Wild Bill Hickock eating oysters and Salmon Baked a la Richelieu in the old west. Its true, even though these men, and many others were pioneers in the wild west, it was during the Victorian era. During that glorious time, fresh oysters and classic French cuisine were bon ton and tony. Just because one was out west didnt mean one had to do without!... These are just some of the remarkable truths about the old west.
As we dined, Kinney told us the oyster story, relayed by a woman named Susan Magoffin in a diary entry from 1846.

"She was one of the first women who came out West," Kinney said. "She wrote that she drank the finest French Champagne and ate fresh oysters on the half shell at a Santa Fe party."

So how did fresh oysters get from the Chesapeake Bay to the middle of New Mexico in the 1800s?

"The oysters were shipped in big wooden barrels with their mouths facing upward," Kinney said. "On the first layer of oysters, they would put a layer of shaved ice from an icehouse and sprinkle cornmeal on top of the ice. Then there was another layer of oysters, with their mouths up, covered with ice and cornmeal. These barrels of oysters would go across the Santa Fe Trail and stop at towns along the way that had an icehouse. The barrels would be replenished with ice and cornmeal, keeping the oysters alive. By the time the live oysters arrived in Santa Fe, they were more plump and delicious than when they were pulled out of the bay."
Old 02-26-2007, 10:21 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: The great PNW.
Posts: 3,636
I'll be damned. Still seems kinda' spendy for a town social, but what do I know. Thanks Johnny.
Old 02-26-2007, 10:58 AM
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Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 40,650
Try picking up The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell by Mark Kulansky. Among other tidbits were the oysters were shipped all over the world from New York City (the oyster capital of the world at the time) in the 19th century. The could be shipped in ice, but were also shucked and shipped without the shells (lower shipping costs -- a barrel without the shell held more oysters than unshelled, and they could be used in recipes.

They weren't particularly expensive: Oysters were easy to find, and by the 19th century, they were extensively farmed. But it was a low-maintenance crop (once the spats -- the free-floating larvae -- attached themselves, you just let them grow), and they grew quickly in NYC harbor. During harvest time, you'd get a boatfull in a few hours. A good oyster shucker could remove hundreds of shells an hour, and you'd just fill the barrels and ship them off. Live oysters were even easier to ship.

They were a little bit more than local food, but the price was low enough that they weren't out of the price range for any event that wanted to serve a special treat.
"East is East and West is West and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.
Old 02-26-2007, 09:25 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Dayton Ohio USA
Posts: 26,869
They were packed with cornmeal for a reason. the Oysters would take in the corn meal and discharge the grit. People still do that today.

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