A hundred plus years ago the tiny Olympia Oyster was very popular, almost too popular for its own good. It had been thoughtfully harvested for centuries by seagoing Native Americans from Western Canada to California.
But once it became the favorite of dusty miners celebrating their gold strikes in 1860, the local California Olympia Oyster beds were quickly decimated by the ceaseless demand for more and more and more.
Soon enterprising captains were importing Olympia Oysters from the Pacific Northwest on the decks of their “Lumber Boats”, seeking to greatly increase their profit.
The demand for the savory Olympia continued to grow from swank San Francisco Hotels to the ruckus bars of the Barbary Coast. Millions and millions of the tiny oyster were enjoyed until they became the hottest culinary ingredient of the 1890’s.
They were even served (along with a lot of champagne) at DC’s famed Willard Hotel to entice senators to name a small port town bearing the oyster’s name as Washington State’s new capital.
Soon such national popularity nearly wiped out the Olympia oyster with its only remaining culinary legacy the Oyster Shooter.
Thankfully today companies such as Taylor Shellfish Farms are working hard along with organizations such as the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to restore this tiny wonder. And that’s something every chef can cheer!