Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Lore of the oyster



• Evidently, not every one in Cincinnati could get fresh oysters in the late 19th century. "Cincinnati oysters" is old slang from the period for pickled pigs feet, which were certainly more available and cheaper in Porkopolis at the time.

•  Jake Spencer was the last owner of the venerable Central Oyster House that closed in 1974 at 306 Main St., downtown. Spencer's uncle, Jake Rosenfeld,opened the restaurant, which specialized in oyster dishes, near Washington Park in 1893. Cincinnati's love for oysters goes back to the early 19th century, when the Oyster Line carried fresh oysters on ice from Baltimore to Cincinnati from about 1835 to 1850. The oyster-bearing trip by stagecoach took about five days.

•  In the late 1800s, Chesapeake Bay oyster production topped 111 million pounds. Due to disease, pollution and over-harvesting, production dropped to 22 million pounds in 1980 and to less than 3 million pounds in 2001.

•  Diamond Jim Brady (1856-1917), a wealthy New York financier, is perhaps the most famous connoisseur of oysters. He routinely ate three to four dozen oysters a day. Bobby Melancon holds the record for consuming the most oysters - 188 - in one hour. He set the record at the Louisiana State Oyster Festival in 1972.

Chuck Martin




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