“…and I can’t STAND an oyster!”

Dec 26, 2010 | 7 comments

Baked Oysters

       My Uncle Willard was vociferous concerning his dislike of oysters.  Everyone in the family knew about it and, when he was a guest celebrity on a Seattle television program in 1980, most people across the state of Washington knew about it.  When the interviewer had established that Willard was from Oysterville and that his grandfather had founded Oysterville, the next question he asked was how Willard felt about oysters.
     “Actually,” Willard replied in his most dramatic tones, “I was very nearly conceived, I am sure, in an oyster bed and I certainly was reared in oyster beds.  When I was a boy when we had guests for dinner we would have oyster cocktails, oyster soup; we would have fried oysters and surely we must have had some form of oysters for dessert.  And I can’t stand an oyster!”
      My mother, Willard’s sister, liked oysters somewhat better.  She often served smoked oysters as an appetizer; occasionally she served fried oysters; and we could always count on oysters for dinner sometime during the holidays.  Those weren’t just any oysters, either.  They were Baked Oysters as first concocted by my great-grandmother Julia Jefferson Espy.  Here is the recipe as it has been adapted over the years:

                                            Baked Oysters
Use oyster shell or other individual container (spray with Pam)
Place one or two medium –sized oysters  in container
Pour 1 tbs. hot sauce over oyster (hot sauce: catsup, tobacco, and Worcestershire to taste)
Lay one strip of bacon over hot sauce (about 1/3 the length of a normal strip)
Lay one slice of cheddar cheese over bacon (Tillamook, medium sharp)
Bake 1-1/2 hours in at 325 degree
Save the shells!

     One of our favorite ‘baked oyster stories’ was mom’s infamous remark, “Oh, you can’t overcook oysters!”  She said this one evening during the cocktail hour when I reminded her that maybe the hour and a half of baking time was up.  She was intent on having one more drink and so the oysters baked on.  And, she was right!  They were delicious, as usual.
     We, of course, continue the holiday dinner tradition.  And, we sometimes serve them at other times of year for ‘company dinner’ – especially to hesitant oyster eaters.  We’ve never had anyone say they didn’t like them.  After all, with hot sauce, bacon and cheese – what’s not to like?  I don’t think we ever had Baked Oysters on the menu when Willard came for dinner, though.  He wasn’t hesitant.  He was adamant!


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Although I am a huge seafood fan, I, too, am not an oyster fan. It could be that I’ve not have them properly prepared. I liked my grandmother’s method of frying them in soda cracker crumbs. I’m going to share the recipe above and give it a try sometime when we have company at the beach!

  2. Susan Windham

    As I said on facebook, I’m not a big oyster fan. Perhaps this has something to do with my first job(age 9 or 10) of punching and stringing oyster shells. The occasional splash in the eye of a rotten oyster goo left in the shell was an unpleasant thing. I do remember it fondly anyway.

  3. sydney

    I, too, punched and strung oyster shells as a kid. In fact, I earned my first bicycle that way! I think the going rate was twelve cents a string back then. I can’t remember how long they were (eight feet?) but they sure held a lot of shells! I remember working day after day by the shell pile at Northern Oyster Company here in Oysterville during the summer of 1944 or 1945.

  4. Susan Windham

    Not a big fan of oysters but it looks like a great recipe!

  5. Jun Ishida

    I wish I was at your mother’s house eating all oysters…

  6. Patty Rolfe

    It sounds like a delicious way to serve oysters. But, where do you find “tobacco” for the hot Sauce??

    • sydney

      LOL! In the Tobasco bottle, of course!


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