I find oysters fascinating on many levels. When I was a child, they were exotic: for Thanksgiving, my mother, the best cook in our town of Cullman, Alabama, would make corn bread dressing full of sage, celery, mushrooms, and plump oysters, bound together with lots of butter—a dish that's luxurious and rustic at the same time. Sometimes she'd do an oyster pan roast with milk, cream, cayenne, and a bit of nutmeg, which had scalded oysters floating about. On trips to New Orleans, I made a ritual of going to places like Acme Oyster House and Casamento's. I'd try to chat with the oystermen behind the counter to find out what bays in Louisiana these plump, sweet oysters were from, and occasionally I'd get a straight answer.