I might be biased, since I’m from Seattle. I’ll admit to that. But I dare you to argue that Washington State isn’t a damn good place to eat. The diners, the chefs, the farmers—we’re all in it together, enjoying the amazing foods from our backyards: a stellar array of wild mushrooms, juicy pears, crisp, flavorful apples, berries, lentils and grains.
But in my book, if there is a single food that defines Washington and sets us apart, it’s not apples. (Sorry Eastern Washington, I said I was biased.) No, seafood is our crowning glory, and our premier crop is shellfish. I think all kids in this state should be able to shuck an oyster by the time they are five, and I’m going to tell you why.
It begins with seasonality, a concept that is thankfully all the rage these days. Yes, eat those pears when they’re perfect, and wait for those first chanterelles. But wait we do, especially in these parts where there is no California sunbelt to extend our growing season to nine months of the year. In any given season there is shellfish available—be it razor clams, geoducks, clams, mussels, spot prawns, crabs, oysters—making for a delicious and versatile crop that is nearly always at the ready, a gift when the rain is falling and those spring vegetables are months off.
It also has to do with eating local, the fraternal twin of seasonal eating. Because I’m a Seattleite, maybe you thought I was going to say salmon was our defining food. If so, a) you don’t know me very well, and b) Seattle might be famous for it, but we have Alaska to thank for that. Halibut, same thing. They’re fabulous fish and they do swim on the right coast, but if you’re adding up miles you’ll find it’s a long way from Bristol Bay to Seattle, and more than three-quarters of the salmon and halibut we eat hail from Alaskan waters. Thankfully, Puget Sound makes a perfect home for our local treasures. If you eat a geoduck in Washington, you know it was a local.
Ethan’s recipe for Baked Stellar Bay Kusshi Oysters with Garlic Breadcrumbs ad Oregano
Photo credit: Geoffrey Smith.
From our 25th Anniversary Considering the Source feature in the March/April 2011 issue.