life in cape may

Bayshore Oyster and Ham Dinner

Posted 3/19/07
By Jane Kashlak

Port Norris, NJ - What do you do in Cape May during the winter? Summer people like to ask this often. Maybe it's a way of confirming they are missing nothing by staying away in the "off season."

In that case, don't tell them about the Port Norris Oyster and Ham dinner.

Port Norris, in Cumberland County, is ground zero for Delaware Bay oysters. The main oyster processing at Bivalve is just a mile or so away.

Every March and October, the firefighters in this small Bayshore town cook up 40 gallons of local oysters in the town fire hall.

Then 600 local folks and oyster cognoscenti patiently wait their turn for a place at a table.

Once seated, the food starts coming.

Plates of freshly fried oysters are passed first - then dishes of baked ham, horseradish, homemade baked beans, cole slaw, green beans, macaroni salad and rolls.

There's no limit to the food. As soon as one dish of oysters is devoured, another magically appears in its place.

Finally, when you think you are ready to burst, homemade desserts, made by the ladies' auxiliary, are offered. Who can say no?

Bonaparte's gulls on the beach

Captain Bob Dickenson does the honors in the kitchen, frying up a dozen or so oysters at a time. He's been frying the oysters for over thirty years. His friends say he has the magic touch - knowing just how long to let the plump oysters simmer in their hot oil bath, before delivering them to a waiting plate.

He and former Fire Chief Barney Hollinger started the oyster and ham fundraiser back in the early 70's. Wisely, they now hold it twice a year. Next one is October 28th, from 1 to 6PM.

If you're a Cape May summer person, you just might want to consider making a return trip to the shore that weekend.

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