In a city where festivals are devoted to a variety of exotic cuisines, it is refreshing to come across a celebration of the city’s indigenous foods. The first-ever New York Oyster Week kicked off Sept. 22 and will continue through Sept. 29. Oyster Week is an event to celebrate the oyster not only as food but also for its connection to the history of New York City.
Kevin Joseph, one of Oyster Week’s creators and co-founders, explained the rich history between New Yorkers and the mollusk.
“For 100 years, the oyster was the most commonly consumed form of protein of all classes of New Yorkers because the New York harbor was so full of them,” Joseph said. “No other place consumed a single food for so many years, in the same exact way [as New York has with oysters]. It just doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
The unique relationship the city has with oysters goes back to when the Dutch called New York City “New Amsterdam.” The shellfish continues to be a staple in the diets of New Yorkers of all budgets.
Oyster Week will host special events in and around Manhattan. The kick off event at the Stone Street Oyster Festival on Sept. 22 was an amazing fusion of good food — crab cakes, mac and cheese and, of course, oysters — good music and good company. The streets of lower Manhattan were bustling with people enjoying the last warm, sunny days with their fellow food lovers. The following day featured an Oyster social, where local bluegrass bands played while diners enjoyed the mollusk and mingled with other people.
Upcoming events include Oystoberfest, a fitting gathering to celebrate what is referred to as the aphrodisiac of the sea. The festivities take place on Sept. 26 and will include music and dancing.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of the festival is its emphasis on environmental sustainability.
“The growing movement [is] to use the restoration of oysters to help educate and actually purify water,” said co-founder Rudi Ehrlich.
One of the major goals of Oyster Week is to help people understand the importance of the organism in the ecosystem; old oyster shells, in addition to helping the growth of new oysters, can also help build new reefs in overharvested places. By understanding the oyster’s ecological importance and by supporting aquaculture, Joseph said people will “enjoy oysters in a way they haven’t before.”
“There are so many food festivals in New York, but when one is centered on a food’s cultural and historical ties to New York and has an educational motive behind it, it’s so special,” said LSP freshman Justin Daum. “I will definitely check out some of the great deals New York Oyster Week has to offer.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 25 print edition. Caroline Johnson is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.
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