AS OUR DAYS grow shorter and our memories of summer fade, we greet the most stunning month of all on the Crystal Coast, October. Gone is the dusky, hot, breathless haziness of August and the luscious late summer warmth of September. With cool, breezily crisp days and skies that deep soulful blue we only see in October, our local oysters taste their briny best. Such poetry in the synchronicity that October and oysters both start with the letter “O”; favored month, favored delicacy that tastes of the ocean just when the chill of the sea announces winter is coming.
Whether hand plucked near a Bogue Sound marsh or harvested by the sack full from our favorite local seafood market, our Carteret County oysters have the rightful bragging rights to be the finest, fattest, most wonderfully salty of all the coastal waters. In fact, at the Oyster Summit hosted by the Coastal Federation in Raleigh this year, author Rowan Jacobsen (“A Geography of Oysters”) explained why North Carolina is “well poised to become the Napa Valley of Oysters.” This was confirmed when we made a recent stopover at The Boiler Room in Kinston, the casual restaurant made famous in the Emmy Award winning PBS television series, “The Chef and the Farmer.” Chef Vivian Howard and her husband Ben opened this eatery to showcase oysters and hamburgers. On Tuesday nights, oysters on the half shell are perfectly chilled, only $1 a piece, and are served up with a seasonal mignonette sauce and homemade saltines. Best of all, that night I could choose from Harker’s, Cedar’s or Newport’s –all the oysters served were from Carteret County’s abundant and pure waterways, Harkers Island, Cedar Island and the Newport River. The Cedar Island oysters on my plate that night were mighty tasty … they tasted of home.
I cannot imagine an October without oysters, but a sobering possibility exists that our seafood fisheries may all be at risk. No Wetlands, No Seafood is the renowned call to action by the Coastal Federation. Wetlands and estuaries ruined by even a small oil spill or the infrastructure of oil refineries will mean the loss of beloved oysters and other precious seafood resources.
What seems obvious to me are the inherent and insidious dangers to tourism if oil and gas drilling and exploration is allowed off the North Carolina coast. As our coastal communities awaken to this danger, many have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling. For all of us who depend on beautiful, pristine beaches, clean oceans and sounds, as well as abundant local seafood for our livelihoods, the minimal economic benefit gained by allowing the oil industry offshore is lost when balanced against the potential for environmental devastation. One summer without vacation rentals on the Crystal Coast, one October without oysters could be the disastrous result of drilling offshore and an inestimable blow to our coastal economy.
Learn more at www.CoastalReview.org and add your voice to the growing voices that say North Carolina loves their beaches just the way they are … oil free, please.
Julia Batten Wax
Broker/Owner, Emerald Isle Realty