Turkey Day is right around the corner and I think I should inform you that the first Thanksgiving was not laden with gobs and gobs of gobblers. There very well may have been a turkey or two, but the main dishes were oysters, corn, clams and deer. Wild turkeys are actually quite smart and have keen eyesight, so to bag a turkey was quite a feat even for the Wampanoag Native Americans. Our vision of the traditional thanksgiving is a bit skewed by Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of a magazine called Godley’s Lady’s Book in 1846. Mrs. Hale meant well and we are all thankful for her help making Thanksgiving a national holiday, but her vision of the meal was a bit off. Even in the late 1800s and early 1900s oysters were a main dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is not necessarily because it was viewed as “traditional” but more because this was the first time of the year the weather was cool enough to transport oysters from the coast to inland areas without them going bad. BTW, this is also the reason oranges were a traditional gift for Christmas.


Turkey Day is right around the corner and I think I should inform you that the first Thanksgiving was not laden with gobs and gobs of gobblers. There very well may have been a turkey or two, but the main dishes were oysters, corn, clams and deer. Wild turkeys are actually quite smart and have keen eyesight, so to bag a turkey was quite a feat even for the Wampanoag Native Americans. Our vision of the traditional thanksgiving is a bit skewed by Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of a magazine called Godley’s Lady’s Book in 1846. Mrs. Hale meant well and we are all thankful for her help making Thanksgiving a national holiday, but her vision of the meal was a bit off. Even in the late 1800s and early 1900s oysters were a main dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is not necessarily because it was viewed as “traditional” but more because this was the first time of the year the weather was cool enough to transport oysters from the coast to inland areas without them going bad. BTW, this is also the reason oranges were a traditional gift for Christmas.





In my family, sure we have some turkey (usually fried) but the main course ever since I can remember is the oysters, which are in prime season right now. There is nothing more American or Thanksgivingesque than a huge steaming pile of oysters and cracklin’ cornbread in November. Here at Topsail we have some of the best oysters in the world. This is not my opinion but the opinion of some of the top chefs in the world from France and elsewhere. The name given to the region where these wonderful critters are harvested is called “Stump Sound.” The area from the N.C. 210 highrise bridge to the swing bridge is considered the best areas for oysters. These “Stump Sound” oysters usually sell for more as well. They typically run from $45-$75 dollars a bushel, which is about $15 more than other oysters in NC. I prefer singlets as opposed to clusters. Singlets usually have a deeper cup to the shell and more meat. Clusters usually sell for less, have thinner shells, the cups are not as deep. They taste fine, but you tend to break off pieces of shell when opening and risk chipping a tooth. The Stump Sound oyster is generally saltier and fatter than other oysters from North Carolina or elsewhere, which is what makes them unique.



In conclusion, my fellow Americans, let us not be tied to some fictitious pictorial of early American life. Let us keep tradition in a factual way. Cast out those roasting pans and do not be tied to the kitchen for hours on in. Let us honor our forefathers and the Wampanoag by roasting a big pile of oysters. Give thanks to those who have made this country great, tip your hat (and your glass if you are so inclined) to the first Americans and honor those with the sight of empty shells being cast into the shell recycling trailer.



 



Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at Eastcoastsports.com.