The Walrus and the Carpenter

In other words, Oyster Season is upon us

By Jason Frye

When my mustache gets too long my wife says it looks “walrus-y.” As in, it resembles the whiskers worn by walruses the world over.

In my defense I’d like to say four things.

I never think my mustache gets too long.

A walrus has no choice when it comes to facial hair.

I think my mustache looks distinguished, presidential even (I’ll give you a minute to Google Rutherford B. Hayes).

Much like the beloved protagonist of the Lewis Carroll poem, I love oysters, and if I could get them to take a walk with me and admire the view, I’d take a whole bed of oysters out to the beach and make an evening of it.

Which is a roundabout way to say oyster season is upon us, so what are you waiting for — get shuckin’.

I grew up in the mountains, where oysters are an entirely different foodstuff. Here by the sea, they’re exactly what they should be: bite-sized bivalves in a stony shell. How you eat them, that’s up to you. Would you rather go at them raw, steamed, roasted or fried? On a sandwich or a cracker? Whether you prefer them like the Walrus — dolled up with a splash of vinegar — or the Carpenter — cooked simply and quickly — makes no matter, they’re perfection in a bite either way.

While I prefer mine raw with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of champagne mignonette, eating the raw oyster (and the liquor in the shell) is an acquired taste, and many folks prefer to eat them roasted or steamed in the backyard, standing around a newspaper-covered picnic table, shucking them as best they can, and eating them on a saltine with a little horseradish or Texas Pete. Still others like them Calabash-style: fresh and flash-fried and served in heaps and mounds. But if you go to Calabash (go ahead, it’s about 45 minutes south of Wilmington, and it’s the birthplace of that namesake seafood style) in November, you’ll find two kinds of oysters on the menu at Ella’s of Calabash: fried and steamed. Fried they come, well, cornmeal and flour coated, crispy and delicious. Steamed they come in a big bucket and you gotta’ shuck’em yourself. And they’re hot, like the little rocks the massage therapist uses. And they’re hard to open. That little oyster shucking knife will open a hand faster and easier than an oyster. I call mine Vlad the impaler. 

Me, I like them raw. If I’m going to shuck them myself, I buy a peck from Mott’s Channel or Seaview Crab Company or Eagle Island, make a mignonette and go to town. But if I get them out, I like Brasserie du Soleil.

The raw bar there is small, but it’s always incredibly fresh. The selection of oysters is limited — four, five, maybe six types — but it’s curated. You’ll find Bluepoints and Wellfleets and Kumamotos and even Olympias. But you’ll also find local oysters. Not just the Stump Sounds or Topsail Selects, but other oysters from deep, secret beds known only to one or two people.

These other N.C. oysters, the ones with names that change week to week, have the flavor and texture to stand up to the better-known cold-water oysters. They’re nutty and buttery; sometimes sweet, other times metallic; they’re meaty and mineraly and briny. And often, when my wife and I order a dozen — the perfect way to sample two or three of each kind — we find our favorites are from waters nearby.

Jason Frye is a travel writer and author of Moon North Carolina and Moon NC Coast. He’s a barbecue judge, he rarely naps, and he’s always on the road. Keep up with his travels at

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Start typing and press Enter to search