In season or out of season: that is the question?

Dee Shedrick

In addition to my job at Delgado Community College, I moonlight at a local seafood restaurant. Recently, after I told a customer the specials of the day, she asked me if I knew “which seafood was out of season?” Well, obviously, I knew that crawfish was in season; after all, Delgado just had its annual crawfish boil at each campus, boiling thousands of pounds of crawfish.

The customer, who was from Scotland, actually ended up schooling me on the seasons of seafood. Maybe the seafood schedule is something that I should know, but I figure it’s one less thing to think about or keep up with.

I usually find out about seafood seasons the way I find out about Second Lines. On any given Sunday, when I am having dinner with my family in Central City or sitting on my patio in the Seventh Ward (some call it Esplanade Ridge), I’ll hear a brass band and just walk to the corner or to the end of my yard. I don’t have to go to Backstreet Cultural Museum on Henriette Delille Street a few blocks from my house to get a verbal itinerary of upcoming Second Lines. It’s really pretty simple—if I hear a whistle, a brass horn, a tuba, and a drum I just stop what I am doing and join the parade.

oystersThat is the same strategy I follow for keeping up with the variety of seafood seasons. When crawfish, oysters, or soft shell crab is the daily special on the menu, then that’s when I know which seafood is in season.

Now I don’t remember everything the customer told me, but I do remember that she said that oysters should be eaten in months ending in “r.” Of course I had to check on this information, so I asked a friend of mine, Derrick Dabney, kitchen manager at The Bull Dog if the oyster thing was still true and how important is “seafood season?”

I had to ask because I see oyster shuckers shucking oysters year round at the restaurants that I go to. Shrimp is also always on the menu, and well, there is never a shortage of fish. I guess the only thing that I don’t notice on the menu every single time I am eating out is crawfish.

“It is extremely important for local seafood restaurants to use seafood that is from the Gulf and in season,” Dabney said. “It is a big deal—locally caught seafood is better—the difference is because it is fresh and it has more flavor. It is believed that the seafood from the Gulf tastes better because it is saltier and it has never been frozen.”

He also said that we will notice that the oysters are bigger when they are in season and we have to give the oysters a chance to re-harvest.

“Duh!” I know that’s what you are thinking. It’s like a lot of other things in New Orleans to me—I may not know why we do it, we just do it.

So yeah, I may not have kept up with the seafood seasons, but I recognize it when each one is in full bloom. Hey, in my defense, there is one thing I do know, according to a slogan from an old ad—friends don’t let friends eat frozen seafood! You gotta give me some points for that!

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