Friday, October 24, 2014

Chesapeake Reads

I always get a little thrill when I read something about the Chesapeake Bay - or someplace Bay-adjacent - in the national press. This month has been a good one for that.

First, in the November issue of Food and Wine, there's a solid article about Bay oysters and the Croxton family's work, through their family business, Rappahannock Oyster Company, to revitalize the local oyster industry. The article's not online yet, which is a shame - it's good, though I had a couple quibbles.

The article does makes it sound like the Croxtons are solely responsible for the resurgence; while they are important figures, that gives short shrift to other players. Also, there's no mention of Maryland in the article - ah, clearly an oversight? We have oysters, too! And, finally, there's a rockfish recipe included but no notes indicating that Bay rockfish are stripers in other parts of the country. That gets confusing for some people.


A couple articles in the most recent Garden and Gun also caught my attention. I loved reading about the Leakes, a father and son team in South Carolina, who build custom cellarets, which are like little wooden bar boxes on legs.

The cellarets are gorgeous - and have Chesapeake roots themselves. The designs the Leakes recreate were originally popular during the 18th century, especially on the coast, from Maryland down through the Carolinas.

Right now, we divide our booze between an antique sugar chest (upstairs) and the wine cellar (downstairs). Oh, and the freezers (upstairs and downstairs). But I would happily make room for a cellaret, as well. It's about history, after all.


The same issue of G and G spotlights Jim Banagan, a St. Mary's County native who's spent his life collecting oyster cans. He's in his eighties now and his collection is upwards of three thousand cans - and he continues to buy and sell (he's also branched out in clam cans).

I love old oyster cans partly because they look cool - Harris Crab House does a great job decorating with them - and partly because they're a prop that illustrates a big chunk of the history of Maryland. The article does a nice job summarizing the way oysters and canning intersected here - it's succinct and informative.

And Jim Banagan? He just seems like a good guy. With a great collection.

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