Last Sunday was the 12th annual Shellfish SLURP, a celebratory feast of shellfish, beer and wine, accented with a live auction, live music and a raw oyster speed-eating contest.
Proceeds from the event, hosted by the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association at Fish Tale Brewery in Olympia, help finance habitat-restoration projects, the Henderson Inlet Community Shellfish Farm and the growers’ twice annual South Sound beach cleanup, which yielded 40 cubic yards of trash in March.
Attendance was down a bit, but the 365 patrons raised more than $27,000, up about $2,000 this year in part because of a successful auction conducted by Denny Heck, a Democrat who hopes to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Brian Baird in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
At the start of the auction, Heck voiced a thought that is on the minds of those of us sickened and numbed by the man-made disaster known as the Gulf oil spill: Don’t take water quality for granted.
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“That was kind of the buzz going around the event,” agreed Linda Lentz, a SLURP organizer and the co-owner of Chelsea Shellfish Farms on Eld Inlet. “The Gulf oil spill is just one more reminder how important water quality is to the shellfish industry.”
Microphone in hand, I got a pretty good cheer from the crowd just before the Celebrity Slurp-Off, when I offered a rally cry of my own for protection of our marine waters, including increased emphasis on preventing and treating stormwater runoff and federal action to reinstate the federal ban on oil drilling off the Washington coast that lapsed in 2008, after 20 years.
Actually, I don’t think oil drilling off our coast is much of a threat. I’m old enough to remember the oil-exploration activity off the Washington and Oregon coasts in the mid-1960s, which led to 14 exploratory, but no commercial, wells.
My memory is fairly sharp because I knew a little bit about the work from family friend Dana Braislin, a petroleum geologist who served as district exploration manager for Union Oil Co. of California at the time.
“Many of the wells had minor shows of oil, but none in commercial quantities,” Braislin said in an interview with me in 1986, which was about the last time potential drilling off the Northwest coast was being discussed at the federal level.
Back to the recently completed Shellfish Lovers Ultimate Rejuvenation Party. There I was again, called into action as a celebrity slurper because my successor, The Olympian’s political editor and hobby shellfish grower Brad Shannon, was felled by pneumonia.
Full disclosure: Although I find pleasure in eating raw oysters, I’m a lousy speed-eater. I’ve never finished better than the middle of the pack in several half-hearted tries.
This year, I finished dead last. Long after Scott Miller, Fish Brewing Co. director of arts and crafts, slurped to victory in 12.12 seconds and donned the Gold Medal Oyster, I was still savoring my nine oysters on the half-shell, one by one.
I ran into Miller downtown a few days after SLURP. He expressed dismay to find out the hefty medal he won really wasn’t gold – that’s a joke – and he shared a secret to his success.
“Don’t swallow the oysters one at a time; swallow them in bunches,” he suggested.
One final note: Two Shelton restaurants tied for the most votes for most popular entrée – perennial winner Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House for its mussels in curry sauce, served over a bed of rice, and Steven’s on Railroad for its geoduck ceviche. They were delicious.
NEW WAY TO SHOP
An enterprise that connects local food producers to local consumers has cropped up in South Sound. It’s called Olympia Local Foods.
The fledgling business offers food ordered on a secure, online shopping cart from Thursday night to Tuesday morning for pickup from 3-7 p.m. Thursdays at the Olympia Wood Flooring Supply loading dock, 2442 Mottman Road, Olympia.
South Sound residents Tom and Celia Hussman started the business less than a month ago, using Facebook to market their service.
You might wonder what their market niche is when consumers who support local agriculture can buy directly from a farmer through a Community Supported Agriculture share or at Olympia Farmers Market. Here’s what Tom Hussman has to say:
“We sell things you may not find at the market,” he said. “And we’re catering to customers who don’t want to shell out $500 for a CSA share.”
In many cases, Olympia Local Foods works with startup and smaller farms that might not have established customers. Last week, it matched up about a dozen farmers with 30 shoppers.
For more information, check out its website at www.olympialocalfoods.com.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org