Oyster Expert Jon Rowley Added to Symposium Program

Foodways Texas is honored to add oyster guru, Jon Rowley, to our conversation about Galveston Bay oysters at the upcoming Foodways Texas Annual Symposium. He will join author Robb Walsh, Jim Gossen of Louisiana Foods, Misho Ivic of Misho’s Oyster Company, Tracy Woody of Jeri’s Seafood, and Dr. Sammy Ray of Texas A&M University, Galveston, on the panel “From Pepper Grove to San Antonio Bay: The Secret History of Oyster Appellations on the Texas Coast.”

The group will discuss the history of harvesting oysters in Texas, the importance of oyster reef communities, and the outlook for one of Texas’ most beloved delicacies. They’ll all be on hand after the panel for an oyster appellation tasting and happy hour at Gaido’s on Saturday, February 26th at 6:30pm, where all symposium attendees will have the opportunity to taste oysters from six distinct appellations.

While researching his upcoming book, Walsh stumbled upon something quite extraordinary: an article from the Galveston Daily News, circa 1902, about oyster appellations in Galveston Bay. The article is a haunting voice from over a century ago, describing the varieties of wild oysters in Galveston Bay, their relative merits, and exactly where to find them. It’s evident that the article’s author, John Caplen, was nothing less than a turn of the century food historian with a passion for oysters.

Caplen’s article is a remarkable find when you consider that oysters harvested today along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas are lumped together under the “Gulf Coast” appellation while oysters from the northeast and northwest coastal regions of the United States have very distinct and numerous place names. What happened to the Galveston Bay appellations?

With a little more digging and a few phone calls, Walsh was able to locate the reefs Caplen described on an oyster map — no small feat since many of their names had changed. In the process, he discovered a new insight on the rich history of Galveston Bay and the bivalves Texans hold so dear. To hear more, join us for “From Pepper Grove to San Antonio Bay: The Secret History of Oyster Appellations,” at the upcoming 2011 Foodways Texas Symposium.

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