Oysters aren’t usually Kim Brookshire’s thing, but after Saturday she might have to change her mind, she said.
Brookshire attended the San Leon Oyster Festival for the first time this year because she wanted to do something different, she said.
“I like them,” Brookshire said. “You only live once.”
This year is a comeback for the oyster festival, which didn’t happen last year because Hurricane Harvey disrupted festival organizing, said Crystal Laramore, a festival spokeswoman.
Founded in 2016, the festival is meant to raise awareness for the health of oysters and the benefits they bring to the region, she said.
“It provides food, income,” Laramore said. “They’re natural filters.”
In addition to enhancing the health of the bay, oysters are a source of income for people in the area who harvest, cook and sell them, she said.
Oysters weren’t always on the menu for Sue Dickenson of San Leon, but now she and her husband love them, she said.
“It’s an acquired taste,” Dickenson said. “Until we were older, we never liked them the because we thought they were all slimy.”
A good oyster requires a specific taste and texture, long-time oyster enthusiast Scott Robinson said.
“It’s hard to describe,” Robinson said. “You don’t want the measly or the mushy oysters. It’s got to have a certain texture.”
A Houstonian, Robinson fishes in Galveston Bay off of the San Leon and has attended multiple oyster festivals, he said. Saturday's festival was one of the better ones he’s been to, he said.
Jim Long, president of Jamaican Jeem’s Products, said he enjoys both cooking and eating oysters.
After living in Jamaica for 40 years, he and his wife moved to Galveston to retire, Long said.
“We love seafood,” Long said. “That’s part of the reason we moved here.”
He cooks his oysters with bamboo wood and adds Jamaican flavors, he said.
Festivals are important ways to raise public awareness about the important role oysters play in the environment, said Raz Halili, a festival organizer and junior vice president at Prestige Oysters Inc.
Some oyster beds were damaged during Hurricane Harvey, but there are several groups working to restore them, he said.
“The profits go back to oyster restoration,” Halili said. “Now, everyone’s starting to see the benefits of oysters.”
Hailegh Wingo came into the oyster festival a skeptic, but she liked some of what she tried, she said.
“I may change my mind,” Wingo said. “It’s just something to try. You might find an oyster that you like.”
Laramore hopes that by getting more people excited about eating oysters, people will become more aware of the important role oysters play in the area economy and environment, she said.
“It’s a balance between Mother Nature and humanity,” Laramore said.