Shucking Oysters on
African-American Oyster Shuckers
(Courtesy Florida Archive, 1909)
My grandfather owned an oyster business in
up on Chesapeake Bay about 1900.
He had a whole crew of African-American men and women shucking oysters, and when my Dad was little he remembered how they would sing the old Negro spirituals as they worked. Man, could they shuck those oysters! I imagine quite a few of those people had been slaves just 35 years before that.
Marty asked me to get her a couple of 8 oz. containers of fresh shucked oysters today, but everywhere I went, they were out. So I decided to buy some oysters in the shell. How hard could it be to shuck oysters?
I brought the oysters home, and Marty brought out an oyster shucking knife and told me about being sure to cut the muscle, and to save the nacre. I came from the
and should have been an old hand at opening oysters, but I guess I missed that
experience until now. Gulf Coast
So I did what any pioneer would do—I looked up “shucking oysters” on Google, and soon was watching a video of a guy shucking oysters expertly.
It’s simple. You just hold the oyster flat side up, hinge end toward you, and place the knife in where you see a tiny crack. You slide the knife in about a half inch and pry the shell open, then cut the muscle on the top shell, so the oyster is just lying in the bottom shell, waiting to be slurped.
I was doing this over the sink. The expert had advised that I might find that a screwdriver opens the oysters easily, and results in less chance of knifing yourself if your hand slips. And you should wear an oven mitt, also to prevent hurting yourself.
The first oyster I was trying to shuck was not very cooperative. I couldn’t find any place to stick the knife, and then the shell squirted out of my gloved hand and went down the drain. That's where the garbage grinder is. Of course, my hand is too big to get down there to retrieve it, and I started trying to find a long set of tongs.
In the past I have used the vacuum cleaner—I stick the suction down the drain and pick up whatever I've dropped down there. It’s usually a silver spoon or other such valuable item.
That didn’t work because the shell was too heavy.
Finally, using tongs, I retrieved it.
By now, I had shucked ZERO oysters, and I was already worn out.
I was thinking about those old African-Americans, singing and shucking, probably 100 oysters while I was messing with the vacuum cleaner! I thought about those huge piles of shells.
Soon I managed to open an oyster.
But the one I had retrieved from the drain was one tough customer. I still couldn’t find any place to stick the knife. I just stuck the knife in the general vicinity and hammered the shell on the wooden cutting board near the sink, and finally the shell started to come apart—in pieces.
This was not going to be a well-shucked oyster. And the nacre? Forget it.
Oyster shells. Shiny material is nacre.
I don’t think I will become a master oyster shucker.
The Personal Navigator offers these books and papers:
The Way, The Truth and the Life; a Hand Book of Christian Theosophy, Healing, and Psychic Culture, A New Education, Based upon the ideal and method of the Christ by Dewey, J.H., M.D.1888 Buffalo, NY: J.H. Dewey, M.D. 408 pp. 13.5 x 19 cm. Author, "actively engaged in the practice of medicine", brings forth his study of the remarkable developments connected with specific religious experiences, particularly the study of the life of Christ. "Is Christ to be Superseded?" "Christ the
"True Basis of the Higher Education", "Method and Specific
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III and IV; index. Dark brown
cloth on board with gilt title on cover and spine, minor wear to heel and toe
of spine, cover lightly mottled. Inscription on ffep: "To Louise Grant From Mrs. C.B. Sawyer, , May 30th, 1889." Very good.(8313) $26.00. Religious/Faith Healing Chicago
Early Starrs in Kent & New England (With Starr Family Association booklet, 1937) by Ballou, Hosea Starr 1944 Boston, MA: Starr Family Association. 141 pp. + 8 pp. 15.5 x 23.2 cm. Compilation of a series of articles on the forbears of the Starr family in the U.S. and England, together with an 8-page Starr Family Association booklet published in 1937. Includes articles on English Ancestry, Early Life in
County Kent, English Baptismal Records, Dr. Comfort Starr
Arrives in New England, The Monhegan Island
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photo of author. Red cloth on board with
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good, book very good. (8310) $50.00. Biography
Enigmas of Life by W.R. Greg Greg, William Rathbone 1873
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suggested thoughts, based upon his outlook after having reached the age of 60.
In his Preface he sets forth the framework for his thought: "..it becomes possible at once to believe in and worship God,
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Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy 1889
MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Author Bellamy in this wildly popular (in
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responding to a review of his book in the Boston Transcript of March 30, 1888. 475 pp. 12.4 x 19 cm. Dark green
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Lucile by Owen Meredith, pen name for Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891). Family Edition, illustrated by H.N. Cady 1888
Frederick A. Stokes and Brother. Lucile
by Owen Meredith, pen name for Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891).
Author dedicates this edition to his father, the noted novelist Lord
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$48.00. Poetry New York, NY
Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, The, Vol. I, March 31 to Dec. 31, 1832 by Knight, Charles 1832
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Lord Brougham was the instigator
of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in England in 1826, and it published its first
weekly eight-page issue in March, 1832.
The intent was to spread knowledge amongst the poor, and this little
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peak. Publication ceased in 1844, after
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volume did not patronize the uneducated-- UK Charing Cross,
now greatly improved, illus. with woodcut.
with woodcut, recently discovered, article takes readers on a walk through the
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Statistical Notes on the population of Pompeii England
Instruction of the Deaf and the Dumb. " Wales London
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Sermons by the Late Rev. George Shepard, Professor in Theological Seminary,
With a Memorial by Prof. D.S.
Talcott, first edition 1869 Bangor,
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Sovereigns and Courts of Europe, The by "Politikos" with Portraits, Authorized Edition 1893
D. Appleton and Company. 439 pp. w adv. 12.8 x 19.6 cm. This book today is
widely circulated in Print on Demand and electronic versions, but this 1893
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Very good. (2939) $36.00. Biography Loveland
Song of the Sower, The by William Cullen Bryant, illustrated with Forty-two Engravings on Wood 1871
D. Appleton and Company. 48 pp. 17 x
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poetry from newspapers in the 1880s and put them in the pages, but didn't stain
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