An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

January 18, 2009

A Good Time Was Had By All

I spent most of last week on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore helping my parents prepare and enjoy a party they were throwing in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. An occasion like this is a rare thing and needs to be celebrated. My parents are not part of the Country Club set (although they easily fit in wherever they find themselves), so this party was not a catered banquet overlooking the 18th hole. They are both still very active (more so than some people half their age), so this event was not an afternoon tea in the day room at an assisted living facility. No, they had a party that fits who and where they are.

They asked my cousin if they could borrow the shed where he keeps and maintains his farm equipment. It had some very important things necessary for a party: indoor plumbing, an ice machine and heat (especially important Friday night when the temps eventually dipped below 10). The shed is a multi-purpose facility that also serves among other things as a dry marina and as a more-or-less private men's club, and it easily held the 75 party goers in toasty comfort.

My mom is on the right and her sister the left, and when these two women get down to work, it is best to do what you're told or get out of the way. Here they are embellishing the picnic tables with shells and greenery.
There were several guests of honor including Crassostrea virginica who we refer to as Seaside Oysters. These Oysters were harvested from Metompkin Bay by my father and my uncle. Seaside Oysters are the same species as those in the Chesapeake, but Seasiders being on the Atlantic side of the Shore are saltier, and to many people have more flavor. Although several were sampled in the raw, most were served steamed.
This is my son who has discovered many things this year, including a taste for Oysters.
Purists prefer them as God made, but others dip them in peppered vinegar or in cocktail sauce that is heavy on the horseradish. I ate so many, I barely had room for the other honored guests. Mercenaria mercenaria (so nice they named it twice) was brought to the party by another uncle in the form of Eastern Shore Clam Chowder. You will find no tomatoes or dairy products in this pot, rather it is all about the local Clams, though there are some potatoes and aromatic vegetables in cameo roles. If you are familiar with Hatteras style Clam Chowder this is similar, but much better and served 200 miles further north.
Another honored guest was Sus scrofa domesticus. The pork arrived at 7:30 in the morning to be ready for the 6:00 p.m. party. It spent the intervening hours at a warm but low temperature in the smoker pictured below. At the appointed time it was removed, allowed to rest and to gather its thoughts prior to being pulled by hand (but with great care), then served with sauce and slaw.

(For those of you who do not know any better, Barbecue is NOT anything that happens to be cooked outside or on a grill, nor is it anything served smothered in a sauce made by Heinz or Kraft. BBQ is a process learned from the previously indiginous people, Indians if you prefer, and is the slow cooking of meat at a low temperature until it nearly falls off the bone and jumps on the plate. Around these parts the meat is always pork, usually Boston Butt, and after nearly all-day cooking it is either chopped, minced or pulled. The sauce is usually vinegar based (North Carolina style) and used at the discretion of the diner. The BBQ can be eaten as is or on a bun as a BBQ sandwich, but it is always enjoyed with Cole Slaw.)
Other than Oysters, Clam Chowder and Pulled Pork there were plenty of sides and delicious home-made desserts made by aunts, other cousins and friends. Beverages (adult and otherwise) were available along with a large portion of conversation, and music appropriate to 1959.

Here are Mom and Dad about to kiss. On a similarly cold night in January 50 years ago, two young people prepared for a life together, but with the great unkown that is the future. Now they can look back on a life and a marriage well lived and celebrate with the friends and family that helped make it possible. May we all be so blessed as to know such satisfaction.


  1. A fantastic party! I love anniversary celebrations! Gail

  2. A wonderful looking day for all! My parents in-law celebrated their 50th last Oct and my parents will celebrate their 50th this March. Good to see that some people can be happy together for 50 years! Gives the Saint and me much hope...

  3. Congrats to your parents! Sounds like a great time had by all.
    After reading this I find myself extremely hungry...

  4. What a wonderful post about your parent's party. I now have a hankering for some oysters - as God intended - raw - yum!

  5. The only thing better than a good 50th anniversary story is one with seaside oysters! Best wishes to your parents on this wonderful occasion.

  6. Happy 50th to your parents! I love your family from the description of the party. Interesting history of BBQ – I never knew. I hope to be as happy, healthy and in love as your parents clearly are at the 50th.

  7. Well done! Good for them. It looks like a wonderful party.

  8. What fun!

    We've seen the father, we've seen the lovely son...when are we going to get to see the inbetween generation :-)


  9. What fun! I love oysters and smoked pork. Congratulations to your parents for 50 golden years. My grandparents had a 50th and then a 60th. Alas, both of theirs were banquets overlooking the 18th hole.

  10. How sweet - it looks like a perfect party. We held a similar event for my parents five years ago - and I'm so glad we did. Fifty years is truly something to celebrate!

    (I had to laugh at your footnote about barbecue. Since I've lived in South Carolina, I swear that the way one prepares barbeque is something that folks fight about on a regular basis.)