Mother Shucker

A few weeks ago, Nancy and I went to Lilliwaup, Washington, home of Hama Hama Oysters. Every year they have the Hama Hama Oysterama, a festival that involves harvesting one's own oysters. Between the two of us and the handful of friends we went to the festival with, we collected 32 dozen oysters. We made a plan about what we'd do with them all:

  • Raw, in three ways--with Mignonette, cocktail sauce and saltines, and an invented cilantro lime infused invention.
  • Two kinds of grilled
  • Fried oysters on a Ceasar salad
  • Fried oyster poboys

The cooking was a big part of it, but before we could cook them, we had to shuck all 384. Nancy, a native of New Orleans, grew up shucking and worked in an oyster bar in college, so she gave us a basic tutorial. Between the ten of us at the oyster dinner, we had a hearty group of people shucking oysters pretty much all day long. If you've never shucked oysters, you know there's a skill to it. In addition to having a good shucker, you have to know how to hold the oyster, where to insert the blade, and how to cleanly separate the oyster from the shell. We threw out some bloody oysters and used a lot of bandaids in the process of reaching shucking proficiency. 

By about 3pm, after many courses of oysters, someone decided that we should have a shuckathon. Judges were named, criteria were established, and contestants were registered. There were six of us competing. We had five minutes to shuck, separate, flip and present our oysters. Despite my fierce competitive attitude and a few new cuts on my hands, I didn't win. Though I was the second to complete my shucking, and I lined up my oysters artistically,  I neglected to flip any of my oysters to hide the ugly bottom muscle. The winner, receiving the title of "Mother Shucker" until next year, was not the first to finish, but the best on all categories.

Even though there was only one true Mother Shucker that day,  I was impressed by was how confident we had all become at shucking oysters in the short few hours we'd been practicing. This struck me because it made me think about how infrequent this feeling has become for me. How often do I actually take on a new skill to learn, build, compete in!!? It's rare. And, it's a good feeling.

Life is busy. It's hard to have time to take on an extra hobby and hone a new skill, but there are micro-ways to get this feeling all the time.  Part of finding ways to experience this feeling is being open-minded and alert to the moments that will get us there. It's kind of like being in a yoga class where the teacher introduces something totally new and different. As adults, often our first response is resistance, maybe a little bit of fear, but once we're done with the new thing, and after we've done it a few times in subsequent classes, we start feeling more confident, even proficient, maybe even like a winner.

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