Cooking With Myra: Food, fashion served in Rockport
By Myra Starkey
March 11, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 10, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.
We went to Oysterfest in Rockport last weekend, and I was standing in a long line of hungry people as Taylor had gone in search of raw oysters at the other end of the large tent set up in the parking lot next to the Paws and Taws Convention Center.
The gentleman in line in front of me was with his wife or girlfriend - I could not tell which - but they were doing lots of friendly chatting. They each had a very large mug of cold beer, and that was likely fueling their conversation.
Along the Texas coast, the locals don't call that foamy brew beer but rather "cold beer," like it's one word. I accidently dropped my money on the asphalt floor and that is when I noticed his shoes. He was wearing black flip-flops covered with hundreds of sparkling rhinestones.
His toenails were painted bright pink. I looked up quickly as he caught me staring. He just smiled following it with a chuckle. He was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, neither of which went with the flip flops. I'm thinking that dress-up, special occasion flip-flops like those would only go with a tuxedo. And I'm not sure what would be the proper event for the pink toenails.
He probably weighed about 250 pounds and looked burly until you got to his feet. I tried not to look down again but somehow could not help myself. I finally got called to the counter, where I ordered my roasted corn smothered in butter and sprinkled with spicy salt.
I walked down to the raw oyster area to find Taylor. There was a long table of experienced shuckers popping open the shells to reveal these slimy, glistening globs of pale flesh. There are few things that I can imagine that look more disgusting.
It is beyond my comprehension that any primitive individual would have ever been desperate enough to have been the first one to consume a raw oyster. And there was Taylor, with a whole dozen of them on a paper plate.
He would scoop one off the shell with his plastic fork, put it on a saltine and hold the cracker very level so it wouldn't slip off the side, douse it with a shot of Tabasco then chew it up and swallow it.
I was hoping that he had no intention of kissing me for at least several days. He was now down to the final oyster, which was particularly large. The only thing more nasty-looking than a whole, raw oyster is the last half of a raw oyster that was too large to consume in one bite.
Eating a raw oyster must be some sort of rite of passage into manhood. There was a 10-year-old boy with his parents across the table, and I could see they were trying to get him to eat his first raw oyster.
The mom covered it liberally with cocktail sauce and gave him a smile and a nod and the kind of encouragement one gives a person to either jump out of an airplane or hold on tightly to a very angry bull before the chute opens.
The kid stared at the gray mass through his large black glasses, his eyes growing wide, nostrils flaring. But his lips remained drawn, and after a moment of wise consideration, he backed away in defeat.
We stayed through the night listening to the Western band, dancing the two-step and watching the crowds. The festival was a mixture of folks from all walks of life. Many of the ladies were decked out in cowboy boots and sparkly shirts and jeans ready for a night on the town with their man.
I think one of the most fun things to do at festivals is to people-watch. Folks love to get out and have a good time, and it can be entertaining to see the outfits they come up with.
Most people look fairly normal, but it is the ones with that special flair and creativity that help make a memory - like the big fella with the fancy flip-flops and the pink toenails.
The Oysterfest celebration happens once each year, and all proceeds go to the Fulton Volunteer Fire Department. It is a good place to enjoy a cold beer, western music, a carnival and oysters of all kinds. I was there with my friend, Janet, her sister, Cheryl, Doug and Laura and, of course, my raw oyster-eating spouse.
Most of us like cooked oysters, so earlier that day, I had decided to prepare some for a snack just to get us in the mood for Oysterfest that evening. I bought some oysters and then begged the oyster seller to give me some shells.
After much persuasion, he let me choose 12 shells from a pile, which measured about 10 feet tall by 20 feet wide. Really, I could not believe he would not pay me to take more away.
Earlier that week, I had been at my friend, Kim's, house, and she fixed the most delicious oysters on the half shell. Not having the cookbook with the recipe, I improvised.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.