This weekend I headed “down the road” to Point a la Hache, a small fishing town in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Several of my father’s brothers made a living dredging oysters and harvesting shrimp for years in this tiny hamlet in the “toe” of the boot that is the state of Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina almost wiped it off the map; ten years later it is still here, worse for wear perhaps, but stubbornly occupying land and bayou and bay.
When I was very young, I visited my uncles Al, Benny and Roger a couple of times while they worked, fascinated as only a child can be by the oyster boat and the deep-throated chug of the motor that pushed us along at a steady clip through the marshy bayou channels. I was enthralled by the petite kitchen and the cramped bunks they used when they had to go out for a few days at a time on a longer haul. I fantasized about adventuring with them during an oyster run, like some kind of bayou Jim Hawkins with her three Captain Smolletts.
I watched my Uncle Al prepare to make what he called an “oyster spaghetti” once. My dad and I left before the dish was finished, but the simple sizzling of onions in butter was enough to put me in a tizzy. I always wanted someone to cook it so that I could satisfy my culinary curiosity, but I think they saw such dishes as “work” food, something made on the fly, out of necessity, only under the rough conditions of back-breaking work.
My uncles saw themselves as simple men, but to me they were supermen, and the seafood they brought in was food of the gods. Here is my best effort at what my uncle Al’s oyster spaghetti might have looked like. I hope he would approve.