Until relatively recently, the appreciation of raw oysters has been reserved for a special type of person. Raw oyster enthusiasts were also opera go-ers, they pronounced “terroir” without a hint of irony and wanted to “taste the ocean”. They could be found slurping their delights both oceanside and from the highest sky scrapers in the most luxurious cities, the world over. Full disclosure: I have counted myself among this silly (and rapidly growing) group of people for quite a while. And, over the last few years, this pool of people has expanded to include hipsters, foodarati, and their respective acolytes. This Saturday many of us will gather to partake of, with great enthusiasm, one of the lovelies of the Puget Sound: the Hama Hama.
The first time I sampled a raw oyster I was 7. At my mother’s annual summer work party, her coworker led us kids on a beach walk which culminated in him munching a live (tiny) crab. It made a big impression. He then used his pocket knife to pry open an oyster, fresh plucked from a big rock and dared someone to step forward and slurp it down. Already a shellfish fan, I stepped up. Not so bad! And since that day, my relationship with oysters has waxed (the summer I dated the guy who insisted on grilling oysters every weekend) and waned (the four years I lived in Los Angeles), but my dedication to eating the little slippery jewels reaches a new level this Saturday.
The Hama Hama Oyster Rama includes a shucking contest, beer and, as one might presume, many many oysters. There’s also wine tasting, live music and oyster trivia. Short version: everything you could ever ask for in life. Pictures from years past show people standing on top of staggering piles of oysters. The Hama Hama Company started selling oysters and clams in the mid 1950s but only recently has started selling directly to the public, having open beach days and hosting the Oyster Rama.
Oysters are soaring in popularity here in Seattle: from the Ballard Annex Oyster House to the the Walrus and the Carpenter (whose owner also runs an oyster food truck: The Narwhal). Now it seems fresh-shucked oysters are almost a requirement at new, foodie-focused establishments (see: Radiator Whiskey and the arriving-this-summer-from-the-chef-who-brought-us-Skillet Westward in South Lake Union). Then there’s all the old school spots like Elliott’s Oyster House, Shucker’s Oyster Bar, The Brooklyn, etc etc etc. As the old saying goes: you can’t swing a hipster in this town without hitting an oyster bar. You can either scrunch up your nose at the trendy (and perennial!) favorite or you squeeze into your tight jeans and pony up to the bar. No shucking necessary.