Oyster Roasts For Everyone


The wide table is crowded. Between the bodies wrapped in coats and sweaters you can see steam rising. Hands grasp for gloves, blunt knives, Saltine crackers, the bowl of lemon butter. Someone walks over and empties a burlap bag onto the table, and hot clusters of oysters fresh from the steamer roll out. Everyone cheers, a few of them clinking their beers with their nearest neighbor.

This is the scene in backyards and public spaces all along the South Carolina coast during the winter months, and as St. Jude farms prepares to deliver bushels of roasting oysters, we want to take a moment to celebrate the iconic oyster roast. The tradition of the oyster roast stretches beyond the Carolinas to various coastal towns where the bivalve is abundant, but one would be hard-pressed to find a place that holds these gatherings in such high esteem as Charleston.

For many, this is not the scene we associate with oysters. When we talk about eating oysters, the image that comes to mind is something like this: the oyster lies neat and clean on a bed of ice, with a few scant lemon wedges and a trio of sauces in shining metal ramekins.

This is all well and good, but the oyster roast, however, is not so tame, not so neat and clean and pristine, and that is precisely how we like it. The oysters come in warm clusters, rather than a single shell. Once it has been steamed to perfection, you turn it over and over in your hands, looking for each shell waiting to be cracked open. Warm salty water may spill out onto the gloves that have been set out for this purpose. Perhaps you will find a tiny steamed crab inside, which anyone who is well versed in the oyster roast will encourage you to eat. By the end, there is a small mountain of shells—evidence of all the voracious enjoyment that has just been had.

The oyster roast has been a staple of life in Charleston for generations. We can attribute this to the abundance of oysters that can thrive in South Carolina waters. It has made it possible for every kind of person to eat them in copious amounts. What’s more, the clusters used for roasting can be bought by the bagful. There’s always enough to go around.

The oyster roast has become a go-to city function in Charleston life. Every year one can find an updated events calendar of oyster festivals at which thousands of oysters are roasted and steamed in big barrel steamers or sheet tin over an open fire or set out on the grill.

If you’re someone who holds the oyster roast as a dear place in your family, your memories and your home, than you don’t need an explanation for why these gatherings are important. For the rest of you, pick up a bag and get the fire going. This is an occasion in which everyone, no matter where they come from and who they are, can come together.

As the temperatures drop and the oysters grow, be sure to place your order for a few bushels of oysters, delivered from the docks at St. Jude Farms directly to your door. Call 843-844-2221 for further information.