Since the Mrs and I have been together, it has been our tradition to have oyster stew as a New Years Day meal. This started because the Mrs was the director of the GAR Hall and County Museum in Litchfield Minnesota. She had found out that the GAR members used to have a big oyster stew feed the first day of the year. For all of you that were sleeping in American History class, GAR stands for Grand Army of the Republic. It was comprised of civil war vets that had banded together as a political entity to lobby for projects near and dear to their hearts. Like veteran’s rights and maybe not having to fight another war, those sorts of things.
The GAR Hall and County Museum was a very interesting place. It had a couple of canons stuck into cement pillars, out front of the building. The hall was kept original to when it was built. Lots of civil war memorabilia, pictures, guns, swords and flags. In back of the hall is a block structure that houses the Meeker County Museum. It is filled with stuff used by pioneers of the area and all sorts of interesting and cool things. For a rural county in South Central Minnesota, it has a lot of neat items.
My wife loves history and started poking around in dark corners and researching as soon as she got in the door. And it came to pass that much of what she learned came back home in the guise of recipes and ways of doing things. We lived on a small chunk of what was left of the Big Woods and this area was full of history. Our little horse farm was directly in the path of the1862 Indian uprising. People in the area still talk about their grand parents interacting with Indians and finding arrow heads. My next door neighbor, Patrick Finnegan, was a direct descendant of the very desperate time when settlers of the area rushed to Forest City and built a log palisade fort of timbers that had been slated to be used as a church somewhere. Those timbers were in the right place, at the right time.
The Indians were amazed that those pale faces had built a wooden fort, overnight.
You get the gist that history was an everyday thing for us. So when New Years rolled around for our first time together, we ended up having oyster stew on New Years Day, because it was thought to bring good luck for the rest of the year. Can’t say if it has or hasn’t. I mean, we haven’t won the lottery and ended up filthy rich, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Rich people seem sort of miserable, what with trying to spend all that money all the time. It must be a strain. I do know that oyster stew tends to produce some short term good luck. If you’ll excuse me, I need to take a cold shower and wait for it to work on the Mrs. Happy New Year. Remember, it’s good to be good, it’s much better to be lucky. Wink wink. ;-}
Oyster Stew Recipe
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced onion
16 oz canned oysters
1 quart milk
1/2 cup cream
white and black pepper
Drain oysters and set aside, saving liquid separately. Cook celery and onions in butter until soft and translucent. Add oysters and cook a few minutes. Add oyster liquid, milk and cream. Heat through, season to taste and serve with oyster crackers. Makes 4 generous servings.