The oyster roast is considered a pinnacle Southern social event where people can come together and get to know each other in a fun and relaxed setting. I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 Annual Oyster Roast hosted by the Graduate Student Association at the University of Charleston, South Carolina this past March. The occasion serves as the spring fundraising event for the GSA, with ticket sale proceeds donated to local charities.
Although the event is a relaxed outdoor social, there is proper etiquette that should be followed in order for you to fit in with the crowd of locals and roast veterans. Friends had to show me the dos and don’ts of oyster roasts, so now I’m passing them on to you. Be sure to pull these out before the start of oyster season next September…you will look like a pro!
Come Prepared: Always make sure to bring your own glove and oyster knife. Usually, there will be some knives and gloves available, but you don’t want to be accused of hogging the glove and/or knife. Your glove is almost as important as your knife because it will keep you from accidentally stabbing yourself or cutting your hand on the surgically sharp oyster shells.
Watch What Goes In the Trash: There will be a hole in the middle of a table with a trashcan or a bin underneath it. This is for the used oyster shells, not your used paper towels or empty cups. The shells are used to seed oyster beds, giving the baby oysters something to attach to while they grow. Trash cans away from the tables are free game though, so be sure to pick up after yourself.
Proper Roast Attire: Oyster roasts are often laid back and casual, so wear something you don’t mind getting a little dirty. You’re going to be outside, standing around a table with plough (pluff) mud, oyster juice and pieces of shell flying all over the place. Oyster roasts are held outside because they’re incredibly messy and the last thing you want to be worried about is getting that cocktail sauce stain out of your beautiful blouse.
Have Fun: This is supposed to be a fun, social event, so don’t forget to introduce yourself and start chatting with your neighbor at the table. Ask questions, answer questions and be engaged in the conversation. Don’t be too worried when you can’t crack that oyster open, odds are, someone will be able to give you a hand.