Famous grilled oysters on the half shell, half raw, the rest steamed in their own juices kept the diners coming back till the bounty was totally consumed.
The gourmet cook never claimed to be a chef but bragged that his home in Naples was within 5 minutes of the finest dining anywhere in North America.
JA was a hunter by hobby, a mason by trade and a minister by evening. But he knew good groceries and he was a master story teller!
Isle of Capri, circa 1956, Mr. Boston’s estate.
The family story starts with the quarry of oysters today and on this rare occasion JA took his wife Coralee, 7year old Anna and 5 year old son along as he rowed the skiff away from the dock, around the mangroves and out to the half submerged oyster beds.
A half hour later he grounded the skiff and carefully stepped out of the boat in his rubber boots. Oysters grew everywhere, their shells all pointing skyward, they formed a barrier better than broken glass.
“Stay in the boat son!”
JA called back as he began to pluck the succulent mollusks from their embedded clusters.
The five year old was out of the boat and stumbling across the razor sharp blades of the oyster shells before his mother noticed him gone.
He stumbled and fell catching himself with his hands. Short pants didn’t shield the boy’s knees as he attempted to get up, screaming as the blood gushed from all points of contact.
The curved jagged scars still tell a story of the task of trying to rise from the salty brine of the bay.
Back in the boat, blood dissipated in the small amount of bilge water to help the deck appear as if a slaughter had occurred.
JA rowed methodically faster than the trip out to the oyster beds. The oars rebelled, croaked and groaned as the strain of water pulled the boat back as hard as the oars surged it forward. Little was said when the skiff returned to the owners dock.
The wounds were washed and baptized in Methiolaid. The boy was soon fast asleep in his mother’s arms as JA descended on the oyster bed alone.
The relatives came all the way from Miami. They brought their own hot sauce and a healthy appetite. Little was said of the bandaged boy as all eyes and tongues were set on the metal grate where the oysters, sizzled, snapped and popped as the steam cooked the delicacy to perfection. The oral story was second to the smell and taste of the grilled delight.
To this day the boy in the boat refuses oysters, although the scars are the only reminders of a family story told many times titled, “Stay in the Boat!”
The boy had doubled in age when JA said, “Son, let’s load the skiff we are going clamming.”
Always ready to accompany Dad, he asked, “Is it near the oyster beds?”
“No, son but wear your tennis shoes!”
The bay was calm and the tide was going out. JA said, “Shuffle your steps so you don’t step on a sting ray. You will feel the pointed ridge of the clam shell sticking up, just stoop down, pull it from the mud and put it in the washtub in the skiff.”
What fun as the tub began to fill, gradually the young boy could reach the bottom without his head going underwater. Then the tide started coming back in. The mound of clams, some as large as grapefruit, filled the large washtub and littered the floor of the skiff.
Let’s get to shore son, before the water gets too deep!” JA called out as he towed the skiff to shore.
It was the greatest outing the boy had had in his entire life, and he wasn’t even allowed in the boat…
As for the clams, Mom made a clam fritter with corn meal that was fabulous, and all the shells were added to the driveway to help firm up the native sugar sand roadbed.
Not all family history is written in the book, for the little boy, his story is permanently etched on his hands and knees. This family legacy of all things in the boat, started early in his life but still generates legends today. Share your legacy on legaytoo.com.