When we have turkey for a holiday meal we always have Grandma’s Oyster Dressing. We assume it was her mother’s recipe.
This tradition gets me laughing every Thanksgiving. How in the world, I wonder, did a family of Wyoming ranchers end up making oysters a key ingredient of our holidays? Was great grandpa Luce so rich he could have them shipped from San Francisco specially (as he did his brand)? And how would that even work back then?
Did the Luces from Maine bring the tradition to Utah with them in the 1840s? No way that could work. Spend weeks carting oysters in wagons across the plains? I don’t think so.
So I was pleased when this article ended up in one of my feeds:
- Matthew Wills. “How Oysters Became a Food Fad Way out West.” JSTOR. July 26, 2021.
Oysters were a thing in the West: “Across the map, nineteenth-century America was mad for oysters.” Who’d have guessed?
“One of the earliest mentions of oysters in the West dates to 1846 when venturers on the Santa Fe Trail were greeted with champagne and oysters upon arriving in Santa Fe.”
The author even satisfies my particular curiosity about oysters in Wyoming: “Cheyenne, Wyoming, established as a node of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1867, boomed from a few dozen people to six thousand in a couple of months. The town’s first newspaper, The Cheyenne Leader, was already advertising 75-cent cans of Baltimore oysters by October of that year.”
So, I’m done making fun of family tradition. (This one, anyway.) I’ve been defeated and forced to admit it is totally and absolutely plausible Grandma Essie made oyster dressing for holidays.