NEW ORLEANS —
Tradition will hold for Cajun chef John Folse this Thanksgiving.
“I’m confident enough that I’ve got a big ol’ pot of oyster dressing going right now,” Folse said, when asked about the availability of Gulf of Mexico oysters more than two years after the BP oil spill — and months after Hurricane Isaac raked the Louisiana coast.
During the spill, authorities diverted fresh water into some of south Louisiana’s coastal oyster-growing areas in hopes of keeping the oil at bay. The problem, oyster industry leaders have said, is that the diversion diluted the salinity of the water and harmed the crop. Isaac caused further problems, forcing precautionary shutdowns of some areas in the fall to guard against pollution whipped up by the slow-moving storm.
Mike Voisin, head of a family-owned oyster-processing business in Terrebonne Parish and a member of Louisiana’s wildlife commission, said enough areas have opened up in recent weeks, in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, to meet demand.
“There should be ample oysters available for the Thanksgiving and holiday season,” said Voisin.
The news isn’t universally good.
“I don’t know who’s saying they’ve got plenty and all that. Good luck to them,” said Al Sunseri, who with his brother Sal runs P&J Oyster Co. in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Their main suppliers were hit hard by the spill, leading to layoffs of the dozen employees who spent early mornings shucking fresh oysters. Now, Sunseri says, the business mainly distributes processed oysters from Texas, western Louisiana waters or Alabama.
Statistics released in September by the National Marine Fisheries Service showed 17.1 million pounds of Gulf oysters harvested in 2011, up from 15.8 million in 2010, the year of the spill, but below the 22.8 million of 2009. More than 60 percent of the Gulf oysters came from Louisiana waters.
“Overall, production is down in the Gulf. We expect that to turn around in the next year and the year after that,” Voisin said.
In Alabama, Chris Blankenship, director of the state’s Marine Resources Division at Dauphin Island, Ala., said the harvest began last month and is going well. Alabama oyster harvesters had their problems, too, in recent years — not because of the oil spill but because of a predatory snail that forced closure of the reef in 2009 and 2010.
Blankenship said that’s not a problem now. “There are plenty of oysters,” he said Tuesday.
Grocers interviewed in recent days say they have enough oysters on hand to meet demands of home cooks who want to serve up their special dressing that is a staple on Louisiana holiday tables.
“The oyster harvest is plentiful enough for everybody to get supply right now,” said James Breuhl, seafood director for Rouse’s, a south Louisiana grocery chain.
“Coming off of Isaac, I anticipated that the oyster supply would get a little scarce,” said Marc Robert, who oversees perishable foods for his family’s Robert Fresh Market chain. “But come to find out we really haven’t seen a whole lot of shock to the market.”
Prices vary but they can be steep, $20 or more for a quart. They have stabilized over the last couple of years, Voisin and the grocers said.
Folse said he is happy with the availability and the quality of the Louisiana oyster crop so far. He speaks ecstatically about the salinity and flavor of the current crop and describes a classic oyster stew he’s preparing for Revolution, the French Quarter Cajun and Creole restaurant he owns with chef Rich Tramonto.
“I think that people are going to be excited about the quality of them,” Folse said. “I just hope that people aren’t so excited about them that we run out of the supply.”
NEW ORLEANS —
Tradition will hold for Cajun chef John Folse this Thanksgiving.
- State News
Magistrate rejects Nagin’s bid for report
A federal magistrate refused Tuesday to order prosecutors to provide former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin with a copy of a sealed report on alleged prosecutorial misconduct before his trial on bribery charges.
U.S. Magistrate Alma Chasez said in her order that Nagin doesn’t need the report that federal prosecutor John Horn prepared in a separate case to defend himself at trial.
High court wary of campaign contribution limits
The Supreme Court appeared ready Tuesday to free big individual donors to give more money to political candidates in the court’s first major campaign finance case since the justices took the lid off of independent spending in 2010.
The court’s conservative justices, who formed the majority in 2010’s Citizens United case, voiced varying degrees of skepticism about the limits on what individuals may give candidates, political parties and political action committees in a two-year federal election cycle.
Texas Guard refuses to process same-sex benefits
The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday despite a Pentagon directive to do so, while Mississippi won’t issue applications from state-owned offices. Both states cited their respective bans on gay marriage.
Tuesday was the first working day that gays in the military could apply for benefits after the Pentagon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages. The Department of Defense had announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Obama to seek congressional OK for Syria action
Short on support at home and allies abroad, President Barack Obama unexpectedly stepped back from a missile attack against Syria on Saturday and instead asked Congress to support a strike punishing Bashar Assad’s regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons.
With Navy ships on standby in the Mediterranean Sea ready to launch their cruise missiles, Obama said he had decided the United States should take military action and that he believes that as commander in chief, he has “the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.”
At the same time, he said, “I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective.” His remarks were televised live in the United States as well as on Syrian state television with translation.
Boggs given NO-style funeral
It was a New Orleans-style send-off for Lindy Boggs: Scores of her friends, family and colleagues gathered Thursday in a historic French Quarter cathedral to hear dignitaries praise the former Democratic congresswoman as a gracious but iron-willed fighter for her home city and for the civil rights of women and minorities.
Man set for trial in prison pipe bomb case
A federal judge has set an October trial date for one of two men arrested after authorities found a bomb in a car at a state prison in Leakesville.
Authorities see no sheen near burning Gulf rig
An out-of-control natural gas well burned Wednesday off Louisiana hours after it ignited following a blowout, though authorities said there was no sign of a slick on the surface of the water.
47 rescued from Gulf rig after natural gas blowout
Natural gas flowed uncontrolled from a well off the Louisiana coast on Tuesday after a blowout that forced the evacuation of 47 workers aboard a drilling rig, authorities said.
Faulkner, black literature examined in conference
The 40th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference will look at the black literature of the western hemisphere and the relationship between it and author William Faulkner.
Detroit largest city to go bankrupt
Once the very symbol of American industrial might, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy Thursday, its finances ravaged and its neighborhoods hollowed out by a long, slow decline in population and auto manufacturing.
- More State News Headlines
- Magistrate rejects Nagin’s bid for report