There's this quirky, unique tradition that happens every year around the first day of spring in Annapolis: they burn their winter socks.
No joke. They build a fire pit next to the Annapolis Maritime Museum (formerly the McNasby's Oyster Packing plant), recite the "Ode to Equinox" written by Jeff Holland (read it here) and then they start chucking their winter socks into the fire. I don't think you can fully appreciate the eccentricity of this tradition unless you see it in person.
To coincide with the sock burning, the museum hosts an oyster roast as a fundraiser. They invited 14 local restaurants to compete for best oyster on the half shell in the People's Choice competition. And boy did these restaurants bring it.
Now, full disclaimer here: I'm not a huge fan of oysters. It's a texture thing, and I just can't quite get past slurping the slimy little creatures down my throat. But I know oysters are a big part of our state's food culture and I was confident these restaurants could change my mind.
Siobhan (who loves oysters) and I made our way through the museum, stopping at each booth to give their oysters a try. We had everything from an Asian-style oyster from Blackwall Hitch (Siobhan's favorite) to a "chicken fried" oyster with waffle from Skipper's Pier Restaurant and Dock Bar (my favorite). Several made oyster stews, perfect for a rainy, winter-like day. Another favorite of mine was from Cantlers Riverside Inn: a cold smoked oyster with warm tasso cream and bacon crumble. It verifies the saying that everything is better with bacon.
I was very impressed with the creativity these restaurants brought to the competition. Most people enjoy their oysters with just a little hot sauce or lemon. Ain't nothing wrong with that, but when you aren't great with eating them straight and raw, trying oysters like this is a great way to ease into it. I'm not saying I'll be throwing back a dozen oysters tomorrow, but I'm not going to turn my nose up at them either.
If you're wondering who won the People's Choice, it went to Main Ingredient for their freshly shucked oyster with a fried Old Bay aioli.
We had a wonderful time at this event and plan to come back for it next year. The proceeds go toward the Annapolis Maritime Museum, which celebrates our state's maritime heritage and all of the traditions that go with it. And we have to keep those traditions alive and well for the next generations.
So I'll leave you with a part of the "Ode to Equinox," which explains why they must burn their socks.
"You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not,
See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall,
And they never took ‘em off to wash ‘em, not at all…
So they burn their socks at the Equinox."
Siobhan and I love checking out local food events, so if you know of one coming up, please tell us! It doesn't even have to include sock burning. Email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org