Oysters shucked right

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Oct 24, 2012 - 02:20 PM

Photo: Deborah Pratt demonstrates her oyster-shucking gloves. Photos courtesy of Jackie Partin.

Deborah Pratt demonstrates her oyster-shucking gloves. Photos courtesy of Jackie Partin.

Photo: Clementine Macon helps Rick Griffin sharpen his knife. Beth Evans practices nearby.

Clementine Macon helps Rick Griffin sharpen his knife. Beth Evans practices nearby.

"I shuck them, I cook them but I don’t eat them," says the international oyster-shucking champion, Deborah Pratt.

Deborah, who lives in Middlesex County, has captured the international oyster-shucking contest held annually in Leonardtown, Md., 14 times. She has represented the United States in the world’s oyster-shucking contest in Galway, Ireland, four times.

Recently Deborah, along with Clementine Macon, another champion oyster shucker and Deb’s sister, demonstrated the proper way to open an oyster at a training session held to prepare those opening oysters at the upcoming Third Annual Virginia Half-Shell Oyster Tasting. "Almost 5,000 raw oysters were shucked at the Oyster Tasting last year, and probably that many and more will be served this year," said Jackie Partin, a founder and president emeritus of the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association, based in Gloucester.

The sisters started the session by showing the right way to open an oyster from the lip, not the hinge, so that the muscle can be cleanly cut and the meat not damaged or the shell broken. They are both right-handers, and wore heavy rubber gloves on the right hand, the hand that holds the knife. The index and second finger have an extra layer of protection provided by finger portions cut from another pair of gloves and fastened with rubber bands.