The brutal drought continues to find new ways to afflict us. We’ve said goodbye to our lawn; we’re saying goodbye to our trees, we’ve already said goodbye to the Lost Pines. Now it’s our dear Texas oysters. Drought and heat have combined to create an unusually severe red tide, reported on here by Harvey Rice of the Chronicle. And red tide makes oysters dangerous for human consumption.
Surprisingly, for a boastful people, we Texans were just beginning to awaken to the quality of our own bivalve mollusks. Robb Walsh, Bryan Caswell, and Jim Gossen (CEO of Louisiana Foods Global Seafood Source), among other members of Foodways Texas, had led a push to see Texas oysters receive their own location-specific appellations; a 100+ years ago you could order them as Pepper Grove oysters, or Lady’s Pass oysters, and the Foodways folks wanted to see that tradition return.
How good are Texas oysters? Reporting on an oyster competition in New Orleans itself, one scribe recently wrote that an oyster from San Antonio Bay was “bracingly salty, cool on the tongue, briny, firm but not too -- everything you could hope from a great Gulf of Mexico oyster.” He even concluded that “They were enough to make me briefly forgive Texas for Dallas.”
But now our oysters are off the table—literally. Danton Nix, of Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen, one of our favorite oyster purveyors, says that he’s fortunate enough “after 40 years in the business” to have ready access to Louisiana oysters, so for now his menu is unaffected. (He had just spent 4 hours on the phone lining up supplies.) But he’s going to miss Texas oysters, which he has featured over the years. “They’re a great product.” He also worries about next year’s crop, if the drought doesn’t break. “We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
Above all, of course, Nix says he’ll never serve a tainted oyster. “Red Tide is serious business,” he says.
And so is this drought.