In her classic culinary book, Consider the Oyster, renowned American food writer M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “often the place and time help make a food what it becomes, even more than the food itself.”
As much as any food, oysters from Virginia waterways played an important role in early America; from the time settlers arrived centuries ago until disease and overharvesting took its toll in the early to mid-twentieth century.
Today, Virginia is at the threshold of an oyster renaissance thanks to a fraternity of women and men fiercely dedicated to Virginia’s waterways and preserving the traditions of oyster cultivation.
While technology has contributed to the state’s oyster resurgence, traditional tools of the oyster trade remain the same — tireless work ethic, love of life on the water, a boat, overalls and white rubber boots.
Sometimes called Guinea boots, Tidewater tennis shoes, Chesapeake Bay house slippers, or just sea boots, depending on the region of Virginia, white boots are as much a symbol of oyster culture as wind-kissed cheeks and salt-chapped, calloused hands.
Less expensive than other boots, easier to clean, cooler on the feet in the sun than darker boots, and less likely to scuff the deck of the boat, white boots are worn by oysterman out of necessity, community and tradition.
The Virginia Oyster Trail provides culinary enthusiasts the opportunity to explore the rich traditions of the state’s waterways and taste an important part of the Old Dominion’s culinary past and future.
Comprised of eight distinct regions, the Virginia Oyster Trail showcases the diversity of the state’s waterways: from briny oysters grown in the Lynnhaven River to the salty oysters of the lower Bay and seaside to the buttery sweet oysters of the Rappahannock and upper Bay.
A tour of the trail provides adventurous epicures a delicious lesson from the women and men on the frontline of the state’s oyster resurgence.
The White Boots Blog — a nod to the convergence of necessity and traditions of life on Virginia’s waterways — will serve as a resource by sharing the stories of yesterday and those of the women and men responsible for making local oysters a prominent part of the Virginia culinary narrative again.
Written by Frank Morgan, Author and Creator of Drink What You Like Wine Blog
Click the link below to check out these Virginia Oyster specials on the Virginia Oyster Trail: