R You Lusting for Oysters?

It's fall, and many Kentuckians' thoughts turn to . . . oysters. Eaters throughout our beautiful inland state cherish the edible version of this particular bivalve, and that has been true since at least the early 1830s. Whoa! Really? Aren't oysters fragile, even dangerous? How did they end up in countless recipes in early 19th century Kentucky cookbooks? Mrs. Lettice Bryan, for one, in The Kentucky Housewife, refers to an oyster stuffing for turkey as "old-fashioned" already—in a book with an 1839 publication date.

This week, Kentucky food historian John van Willigen helped the crew of the Hot Water Cornbread radio show answer a listener's question about how oyster dressing became a Kentucky favorite dish. (Hat tip WB.) John explained one crucial fact: oysters were shipped live, packed in ice inside burlap-wrapped barrels. And they shipped by steamboat, first, and then rail, deep into the interior of the United States.

That's the outline of the story. More tomorrow about Oyster-tucky!


Rona RobertsComment