South Carolina’s Lowcountry seems to sit just about six inches above sea level. It’s the flat coastal marshland area that stretches north from the Georgia border. Tall pines, oak trees draped in spanish moss and old plantations mark the landscape. It’s a gorgeous place to find one’s self in the spring.
And it’s then that I try and go every year to see family and take part in a purely southern tradition: the oyster roast.
The oysters that grow in the Lowcountry are long and flat with barely any undulations along the shell, far different from the deep scooped mollusks in the Northwest or even those in New England. They grow in the endless river and creek beds near Bluffton and Hilton Head and the surrounding area, where banks of them are exposed at low tide, waiting to be picked.
This particular version of the oyster roast is not a culinary challenge in anyway, though trying to pull it off outside of the South would be impossible and borderline sacrilegious in my mind. The process goes something like this: Make a fire on the ground with the some sappy pine. Put an old piece of corrugated metal on top of the coals. Throw a bushel of oysters on top for a few minutes, covering them with a wet towel to keep the steam in until they start to open up, and eat.
There’s no horseradish. No little forks. No lemon. No Mignonette.
All you need is a handful of spanish moss to pick up the hot oysters off of the metal, a knife to wiggle them out, and a can of domestic to wash down the briny taste of the Lowcountry. —John Peabody