Not oyster stew again? Someone in the family seems to ask the question every year. Others agree that it’s a tradition for our family to have oyster stew on Christmas Eve. My grandparents ate oyster stew on Christmas Eve. My parents ate oyster stew on Christmas Eve. My immediate family has “enjoyed” oyster stew on Christmas Eve for more than 50 years. And Ruth’s family, too, has a long history of oyster stew on Christmas Eve.
The oyster stew project has also become a ritual. It’s hard to believe, the awful cook that I am and have always been, but I am in charge of oyster stew. It begins when a couple days before the 24th. I look for fresh oysters in the grocery store. Sometimes I have to go to more than one place as they are sold out—we are not the only family with this tradition. This year I had three choices—little oysters, big oysters, or oysters in the shell. I chose the little ones.
After church on Christmas Eve, with the family all gathered at our home for dinner, they are required to wait until I complete the ”making of the Oyster Stew. “ Into one pot go the oysters—not a pretty sight if you like your food to look pretty. Then in another pot goes the 2% milk, a goodly amount of butter, some pepper, and a little salt—notice how carefully I measure everything. I stir the oysters until they curl on the edges, and then dump them all into the milk mixture, stirring all the while.
By this time, Natasha takes the orders. “Who wants oyster stew this year? Four choices: Oyster stew with one oyster, oyster stew with several oysters, oyster stew with no oysters, and tomato soup. This year, a record for oyster stew acceptance in one form or another as five out of nine say “yes.” One wanted no soup at all and three ate tomato soup.
The tradition continues. But will it make it to generation number four? It looks promising based on this year’s acceptance rate.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Christmas Eve would not be the same without oyster stew.
January 12, Noon, Wisconsin Certified Crops Advisory Board, Coliseum, Madison.
January 15, 6:45 p.m. Wisconsin Grazing Conference, Wisconsin Dells. Stories from the land.
January 25, 6:30 p.m. Mt. Horeb Library—History of Cheese making in Wisconsin.
February 2 and 3, Great Wisconsin Farm Expo 11:00 a.m. (Farm Memories). and 1:00 p.m. (History of Wis. Agriculture) each day. Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center, 10101 Market Street, Rothschild, WI.
February 13-14. Garden Expo. Alliant Center, Madison. February 13, 2:15:Wild Flowers, Butterflies, and Other Stories From the Land. February 14, 1:00 p.m. Film: The Land With Jerry Apps plus discussion.