Tag Archives: Apalachicola

EATING APALACHICOLA OYSTERS

Fried Oysters served in a local restaurant.

Fried Oysters served in a local restaurant.

Apalachicola has been called the oyster capital of the world with good reason. The Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf of Mexico creating one of the cleanest estuaries in America. This is the environment oysters need to live and grow on the floor of the bay. They need the right mix of salt and fresh water.

For centuries as evidenced by shell mounds, oysters have thrived here. But these days the river is low. Two rivers originate to the north in Georgia and Alabama and combine to form the Apalachicola River, the largest waterway in the Florida Panhandle. Much of the river’s waters are used by the population of the city of Atlanta and by agriculture in Georgia. Life in the bay is threatened; oysters are diminishing. Oysters are available here but to a lesser degree than a few years ago.

A significant portion of people living in Franklin County depends on the health of the oyster business. Harvesting oysters is hard work whether shucking oysters, or scraping oysters with a long rake off the floor of the bay or working in another capacity. The average hourly wage in the county is seven dollars and thirty-seven cents. It’s hard to know what the future holds for harvesting and eating oysters in the area. It seems likely the previous plenty of oysters will not be part of life here again unless some radical changes in water use occur. A strong flow of fresh water in the Apalachicola River is required for healthy oysters.

A platter of oysters prepared with garlic sauce and cheese.

A platter of oysters prepared with garlic sauce and cheese.

Tourists come to this largely rural region at least in part to enjoy eating shellfish. I’m one of them. Oysters here are plump and sweet. And they are fresh. Those bought yesterday by members of our family and cooked in the evening were sold from a refrigerated trailer right on St. George Island, and brought in that morning or the day before by local fishermen. Those fishing companies still active are selling in nearby small towns, five or seven miles away. They also load refrigerated trucks to take oysters and other gifts from the gulf to Tampa, Jacksonville, or even Chicago.

Broiled Seafood Platter

Oysters and scallops

Oysters and scallops

Here’s the easy recipe for the home cooked oysters, scallops and shrimp.

Saute shallots, garlic, Old bay and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Toss seafood in the sauce, season with salt and pepper or other seasoning of your choice. Spread the seafood on flat cooking sheets. Broil three to five minutes or until the seafood is cooked to your taste.

Broiled shrimp.

Broiled shrimp.

Wow! What a treat!

We served our seafood with roasted asparagus, tossed garden salad, and clam chowder, made from clams gathered by a local seafood company at Alligator Point. Condiments at our table included hot sauce and prepared horseradish.

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A pot of clam chowder.

A pot of clam chowder.

Thanks to an essay by Susan Cerulean “Robbing the River” in her new book Coming To Pass: Florida’s Coastal Islands in A Gulf of Change for the background information in this post.

If you would like this clam chowder recipe, prepared for a vegetarian diet, comment with your request and I will send it to you.

A FAVORITE HAVEN FOR ANY BOOK LOVER

Appalach Bookstore 2

Downtown Books and Purl: Great Books and Fine Yarn
67 Commerce Street
Apalachicola, Florida

Tucked into a spot on a side street in the small historic town of Apalachicola on the bay of the same name, this bookshop is a rare treat, and a favorite of mine for a good number of years. When I enter and make my way across the smooth, worn floorboards with tables and racks of books on every side, I feel like I’m coming home.

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It’s a cozy place. Every way I turn are more books, always displayed in a way that makes them seem presented to me personally. The sections are varied. There are books of local interest, books by southern writers, books on history and geography, and always, favorite fiction and the latest novels. The lively selection of children’s books is not to be missed. Two shelves of cookbooks keeping me browsing even though family and friends are waiting. I find it hard to leave the enchanting spell of the books and the place.

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There are baskets, magazines, artwork and more. All is to be enjoyed. And, all is for sale. Some time ago the owner took up knitting and soon the shop was sporting a charming back alcove filled with yarn. If you can take your eyes off the colorful yarns and other knitting accoutrements, you’ll notice the screen door leads out to a lovely garden. The weather has been brisk but the garden is preparing for spring flowers.

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Most years I’m able to have a spring visit to this inviting shop. Dale Julian welcomes me, and when asked, she gives me some well-appreciated recommendations. We enjoy talking books. Almost always, I buy poetry here, but this year, it was not to be. I saw Janisse Ray’s latest book (I already own it and her book of poems, too) and Wendell Berry’s new Collected Poems, and more volumes of poetry by Mary Oliver, but opted for other genres this time.

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And the new books on my reading pile are:

Grilled Cheese: 50 Recipes to Make You Melt by Marlena Spieler with photographs by Sheri Giblin. This tantalizing book has lots of information on cheeses, grilling, sources and many other things, along with gorgeous pictures and mouthwatering recipes. They look tasty and out-of-the-ordinary, and I can’t wait to try some of the surprising pairings.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Her novel Bel Canto blew me away. Now she has written a memoir about the art and craft of writing, personal experiences and life stories.

The Expats by Chris Pavone. This book is an Edgar Award Winner and a mystery set in Luxembourg with a heroine who uncovers many secrets.

And I also purchased
Remembering Blue by Connie Mae Fowler. This novel is a gift for my hostess. It’s my favorite novel by this author. Fowler writes life in North Florida in a special way. Shrimp boats, Dog Island and more are part of this story. But it is the central characters that tugged at my heart strings. I hope she likes it half as much as I did.

In my eight or ten visits, I’ve always felt like Dale was very glad to see me. I love the books I find here (I saw about ten more books I’d like to own), and the peace I feel among the shelves and the books they hold. Please don’t miss this place if you visit this unique town on the Apalachicola River. Find out more about this one-of-a-kind bookstore and see some notable pictures by visiting the website. The Downtown Books and Purl fuzzy feeling will warm your heart and mind.

www.downtownbooksandpurl.com

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