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Oyster ‘essence’

by Tom Chillemi

Remlik residents Mariah Alderman and her father Bill enjoy oysters at the Middlesex Kiwanis booth during the 53rd Urbanna Oyster Festival. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)
James Breeden of Glen Allen and Tappahannock gave up a day of hunting to come to the 53rd Urbanna Oyster Festival on Friday. “That’s why I had to load up on the essence of the oyster,” he said. His “must eat” foods included a fritter from the Middlesex Lions Club, oyster stew from the Aylett Country Day School booth, and roast beef.

Breeden’s girlfriend had just put an oyster shell necklace around his neck. “It makes me feel ‘manly’ in a shellfish kind of way,” remarked the 6-foot-plus bearded man, as he headed toward the waterfront.

Bill Alderman of Cedar Pointe near Urbanna said he and his daughter Mariah have a date for the next 50 years to meet at 3:15 p.m. on Oyster Festival Friday at the Middlesex Kiwanis Club oyster booth. “They are one of our best customers,” said a Kiwanis server.

Last year the father-and-daughter duo downed 60 oysters between them. On Friday, they were finishing off their first 30 oysters. “This is a warm up for the festival,” said Bill.

“Delicious” is how Mariah, a freshman at Christchurch School, described her roasted oysters.

She should know. The Alderman family grows its own oysters on Robinson Creek, noted her father.

Six-year-old Sophie Allen was working on a smoked turkey leg. She was doing pretty well, considering she was missing her upper two front teeth. Her father Brad is no stranger to the Oyster Festival and recalled coming to it 30 years ago “when they had picnic tables on the street. The oyster shells would be piled so high you couldn’t see the person on the other side of the table.”

Karen Wright of Urbanna was wearing a walking boot over a cast on her left leg. Her boot was decorated with an oyster shell necklace. Although suffering from a “hateful tendon,” Karen was not going to miss the festival on Saturday. “I’ll go home, rest for a while, and then come back out,” she said.

Mr. Sherrill Bacci of Richmond was carrying two hot oyster fritters from the Middlesex Lions Club. “I’m going to see if they work tonight,” he quipped and kept on walking as he looked for a place to stop and enjoy his fritters.

Two couples who met in the wine garden were toasting with oysters on the half shell with their new friends. Suzanne Walker, who is originally from Germany and now lives in Virginia Beach, was at her first Urbanna Oyster Festival. “It’s great, I love it,” she said.

She was enjoying some steamed oysters from Rappahannock River Oysters LLC. Her husband Chris said RRO’s Stingray oysters were certainly saltier than the Rappahannocks. “They are definitely a better flavor than you get in a restaurant,” he said.

His wife agreed, “It’s always good coming to the coast and eating them fresh.”

Nicole Copeland, 12, tried her first oyster late on Saturday as the festival was winding down. She chewed for a few seconds, made a puckered face, then gave up.

“Why did you decide to try an oyster?” she was asked.

“Because I’m at the Oyster Festival,” she responded.

“So, do you think you’ll ever try another one?”

“No,” was her quick response.

For Nicole and others who have not yet acquired a taste for oysters, there will always be plenty of food choices at the Urbanna Oyster Festival. And those who love the taste of oysters will be back for more next year.

posted 11.10.2010

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