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Vol. 17 No. 23 - March 22, 2017

FEATURE

The story behind the oyster stew

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

submitted

Above, John Horne with nephew Trey Horne and mother
Ann Horne preparing oyster stew. At left, John as a child with his
grandfather, John Washington Senn.

 

 

Cooking and love of food in my family goes way back. I think the first time I remember being in an institutional kitchen was in the Polk County Stockade in the '60s. I know me being in a cell doesn't surprise anyone that knows me, but in the '60s?? I was born in '61, so did I start my criminal record before my 10th birthday?

No, not exactly, I am named after my grandfather, John Washington Senn, and everyone in Bartow called him Capt. Jake, as he was the warden of stockade. Granddaddy died when I was 7, but before that, I spent many a day in the stockade as Little Jake, the pride of my grandfather. I had the run of the place because none of the prisoners wanted the wrath of Capt. Jake if anything happened to Little Jake. So I could go anywhere, do anything.

I remember throwing horseshoes with many of them, boxing lessons, you name it. Obviously, not exactly hardened dangerous convicts in a county stockade, but I didn't know the difference between that and Raiford State Prison at 6 years old. So where did I spend most of my time? In the kitchen helping the trustees cook meals. I can still remember standing ON the prep table stirring huge batches of cornbread with my whole arm – it was smaller than the spatulas we use today! Maybe that's where I got the bug for cooking and serving food to people – at least back then you knew how many meals to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. They always showed up on time for their "reservations."

Granddaddy LOVED oyster stew. His family was from South Carolina – one of the reasons I went to Clemson for college – and oyster stew on Christmas Eve was a tradition he passed down to his daughters, and they have passed down to us. Every Christmas Eve we've had oyster stew for as long as I can remember. The last 20 years it's been a lot easier because mom has a great source for fresh shucked oysters!

It was a natural menu item at the Oyster Bars to put my grandfather's favorite soup (meal) on our menu. We had mom tweak the recipe (it is so easy – shhhhh) to be able to prepare it to order, so it's fresh, and the oysters aren't overcooked and rubbery from sitting on heat too long. I'm not sure if you'll want to rush down to get a bowl of oyster stew after you see recipe or swear you'll never eat it because of the amount of butter. Look at me – you can tell my choice. Only thing it's missing is bacon!

So from granddaddy to mom to me to you, here's the recipe. Try it at home cause it's easier than you'd think. If you need us to come by and taste test, we're always available or stop by any of the O-Bars, even on the pier, and order a bowl for yourself. Now you know the story behind the menu item.

Granddaddy Jake's Oyster Stew

Ingredients:

6 select oysters

2 oz. butter

4 oz. heavy whipping cream

1 oz. oyster liquor (juice)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place butter, cream and oyster liquor in skillet and bring to slow boil. Cook for approx 4 minutes, letting cream reduce. Reduce heat, add oysters and cook for 1 minute. Serve in a soup bowl.

Uncle George's zipper parade

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

maggie field | sun

The entire population of the state of Florida turned out for
the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday.

The Beach Bistro hosted another St Patrick's Day Parade last Sunday.

The parade was huuuge. The crowd was in the millions. It was the largest parade crowd in history.

The lying press fixed the pictures so it looked like the crowd was smaller.

I come from a long line of parade enthusiasts. My family's favorite was what we called Uncle George's zipper parade.

It all started with George's baked beans.

My Uncle George loved putting rum in his cooking. His beans were particularly lethal.

George got the beans and pork and brown sugar going in a huge iron crock on the stove. Then he turned it down low and loaded in the rum. He built a hardwood fire in a hole in the backyard. When the fire turned to coals he took the cast iron pot from the stove and put it in the hole and covered it with gravel and sand. The pot would bake all day and then cool through the night.

It was the original Nova Scotian slow cooker.

Losing the rum's alcohol in the cooking drove George crazy. It seemed a terrible waste.

The last time he cooked his beans, he decided to try to seal the alcohol in by wrapping the crock in a space age aluminum blanket he bought to keep warm at hockey games. He sealed the whole thing up with duct tape and put the crock in the hole with the red hot coals.

George washed down all that cooking and digging with a couple of beers. The beers necessitated taking relief through the back fence into McGuillicuddy's yard. Uncle George and McGillicuddy had been bickering all of their lives. He and McGIllicuddy were forever peeing back and forth through the fence.

When the beans exploded, the blast scared the bejeezuz out of George. He zipped up real fast and caught a bit of his equipment in the zipper. No amount of cussing or jiggling or dancing around could get him uncaught.

Reluctantly, George called cousin Mike, the doctor. Doctor Mike was in charge of the emergency room at the hospital.

Doctor Mike immediately appreciated the gravity of George's dilemma. He called about a dozen cousins over to the house to evaluate George's condition and consult on a course of action. Cousin John was appointed to keep me abreast of developments by phone.

After some considerable rum-sipping and muffled giggling, the boys resolved to transport Uncle George to the emergency room by ambulance.

Because of the urgency of the situation, Cousin Tommy, the police sergeant, called in a couple of squad cars to act as escort.

Cousin Glenn, the fire inspector, got a pumper.

Uncle George and his zippered appliance moved off in a parade of sirens and flashing lights and horn-hooting cousins.

Because of the sensitivity of George's condition, the parade proceeded at a cautious pace – past all of the family's houses on the way to the hospital.

My grandmother had 10 kids. It was a longish parade.

When George finally got to the hospital, cousin Mike had arranged a greeting by the entire emergency room staff. Cousin Tommy, the cop, had called his dad, the press photographer, so the papers were in attendance.

Uncle George was safely extracted from the zipper. The celebration of this medical miracle went on into the wee hours.

The parade was appropriately covered in the home town papers.

The parade crowd was reported to be in the millions. Huuuge.

Sean Murphy is the Head Coach of the incredibly talented team that runs the Beach Bistro, it's little sister Eat Here and their new craft cocktail bar, The Doctors Office. Some of his articles can be found on the Bistro's web-site, www.beachbistro.com


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