You are either an oyster person or you’re not. Most people are not oyster people and that’s just fine – more for me.
Every Thanksgiving since time began, our family has had scalloped oysters at the table. And I have always found this curious because both sides of my family came from rural southern Illinois, not particularly known for its seafaring ways. I think what probably happened is that the recipe traveled, and since the Chapins threw nothing away – ever – scalloped oysters came with them across country. My people started out on the Mayflower. A lot of people are very proud of this fact but I have to point out that a lot of those folks were crooks who got out of town just ahead of the hangman. I prefer to think of them as my ancestors.
We ended up in Massachusetts, where I’m sure we acquired the recipe. This was in the 1700s. Now, the only faulty logic in my assumption is that the recipe calls for saltines, which weren’t actually invented until 1876. But I never let facts get in the way of a good story. Here’s an interesting fact that I can conjecture about. Abraham Lincoln used to throw parties in his home where only oysters were eaten. Abraham Lincoln lived in Springfield, Illinois, which is only forty miles away from Jacksonville, where my people lived. I am now going to take a great leap and say that my people were invited to Lincoln’s house for oysters and he gave us the recipe! Well, that’s not right, either. As we all know, poor Mr. Lincoln passed in 1865, eleven years before saltines were invented.
Well, I don’t know how the hell we got this recipe, but here it is:
Two sleeves of crushed saltine crackers
3-4 slices bread, set out the night before you make the casserole so they get stale and then crumbled
1 stick of melted butter
2 pints oysters
Salt and pepper
4-5 tablespoons of heavy cream
Mix the cracker and bread crumbs together. Mix in the melted butter. Put a layer of the crumbs in a baking dish and add a layer of oysters (my dad used to say layer the oysters “shoulder to shoulder”). Salt and pepper. Add another layer of crumbs and then oysters, salt and pepper. End with a layer of crumbs. Spoon the heavy cream over the top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.