Just What Does Oyster Stew Have to Do With Me?

February 15 Bush Report – Diane Davies

Just What Does Oyster Stew Have To Do With Me?

After visiting with Atum and Akhmiri at the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis in January, I’d like to start my report by sharing this story.

It’s Christmas Eve 1955 and my family, Mom and brothers David and Dan, ages 10 and 1 respectively and myself age 6 are waiting outside in the cold Ford for Dad.  The car is running and we wait impatiently to get on our way to the Sunday School Pageant at our church a whole mile away at the other end of our town.  David will be one of the three kings, and I’ll be an angel, and Danny will be just what he is a baby too young for Sunday School and a part in the play.  I ask, “What’s taking Dad so long?  We’re going to be late.”  Mom turns around in her seat and says, “Just be patient.  Dad forgot something and he’ll be right along.”  David has a funny smirk on his face like he knows something that I don’t.  You see we’re anxious to get the church part over so we can get home and open the presents from Santa that he will leave while we are gone.
This little car scene was played Christmas after Christmas.  I’m sure by 1958 it was Dan asking for the whereabouts of Dad and I joined David with the knowing little smirk.  After church and few pictures we’d race to the car not even feeling the cold any longer as the anticipation of the gifts under the tree kept us warm.  We probably could have raced the whole mile without our coats and still not have been cold when reaching home and that pile of gifts.   The grandparents were not far behind and then the bedlam would begin.  The Lindemann grandparents gave each of us a crisp new two-dollar bill and the Niemann side came through will a bright shiney silver dollar.  We all came home from church with an apple, an orange and a few nuts along with the hard candy that never failed to cut my mouth.  Of course Santa left us with the usual array of toys, new shoes and a sweater and pajamas. 
It was definitely Christmas when Mom carried the huge kettle of oyster stew to the table.  She had worked her magic with cream, milk and butter and that huge container of ugly slimy oysters that Dad had brought home earlier in the day fresh from our little market down the street.  My uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents all joined in with the oooos and ahhhhs as the hot bowls were passed around the table and the feasting began. My favorite was the hot buttery milk with the little oyster crackers floating in it and just a hint of fish.  I’ve never in my life eaten an oyster.
So why oysters on Christmas Eve?  My friends that lived on either side of us had sloppy joes on the left and ham on the right on Christmas Eve.  We all had turkey on Christmas Day.  The ham family went to the German church in town with us.  Their last name was Kuehn.  And the sloppy joes, with the last name of Beedle, went to English church right across the street from ours.  So the church was not the answer.  I promised Atum and Akhhmiri that I would do some research regarding the oysters. 
As the oldest living member of my family, I had no parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles to turn to so I went to the internet and discovered that the Irish immigrants that came during the potato famine brought this tradition to the new world.   No Irish in our family.  Searching further, however, it began to make sense to me that in the early 1900’s the only “good” time in the Midwest to enjoy fresh seafood would be the dead of winter when it could be packed and transported in ice by the railroad.  Oysters could not travel that far without refrigeration any other time of year and arrive safe to eat.  The cost of all this made the shellfish quite expensive so it was eaten as a special treat.  Christmas became the perfect time.  I do remember Mom and Dad discussing the price of oysters each year.  I don’t remember the price but I do remember how it went up year after year.  Well that may not be the real reason our family had oyster stew on Christmas Eve – who knows.  But it sure brought back lots of good memories of times passed. (Thanks ladies for that treat.) The real answer may be as silly as the women in one particular family always cutting the ends off of the ham at Easter.  When they began asking questions as to why this was done, they discovered that that was the only size pan great great grandma had so she had to cut off the ends to make it fit.  I could also be wondering why Santa came to our house on Christmas Eve but didn’t make it to the neighbors until the next morning?  Go figure.
I always find the dead of winter a good time to get things done.  For example, it never ceased to amaze me how when I was teaching first grade, the amount of learning that happened between coming back from Christmas vacation and leaving again for spring break.  That uninterrupted space of time, at least here in the Midwest, where you are usually not bothered by staying inside and doing something productive like learning to read!  This month has felt that way for me and my work in the breast survivor community.
Voices of Hope: Family and Friends marketing – We have the logo finished for Voices of Hope and now have the color scheme and site map for the website.  That building should be underway.
 I’m in to the third week of the six weeks of facilitating “Cancer: Surviving and Thriving.   We have an awesome group of about 20 survivors that are really doing a great job of responding to each other’s needs.  This class is a great resource for any of you or your family members going through a cancer journey.  It is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Council on Aging.  Either website would have the information on upcoming groups.
Opportunities in the near future for showing the Family and Friends DVD in the community.  
               April 6, 2013 – Relay for Life in River Falls, Wisconsin
               October 12, 2013 – United Methodist Church, Hastings, MN
I completed HIPAA Privacy & Security Training for Business Associates needed to facilitate the cancer workshop.
Cultivating a partnership with Sean Hernandez, owner of Wbits World, water bottle identification tags new business start-up.  His sister and former business partner and co-creator of Wbits lost her battle with breast cancer.   He intends to donate a percentage of the sales in her memory to Voices of Hope.  Exciting.
My developer of the support group finder has dropped out of sight once again.  I owe him money so I’m sure he will reappear one of these days.  I also know he is going to school full time.
Does it really matter in Minnesota if the groundhog saw his shadow or not?  I think we will have at least 6 more weeks of winter no matter what.  Enjoy the rest of the winter however long it may be. 



Just What Does Oyster Stew Have to Do With Me?

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