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Chuck Hinman: IJMA 134, Oyster Stew tradition

Robert Stone, has unearthed an It's Just Me Again, No 134, which exactly fits the season. He writes, "Believe it or not, I don't think this has ever been up on ColumbiaMagazine," Robert Stone. Mr. Stone has received word from Paul Hinman, the late Chuck Hinman's son, that messages about the column may be directed to him at: Paul Hinman,1023 East 41st Street #6. Tulsa, OK 74105 or email Paul Hinman:
Chuck Hinman died December 15, 2011. The next earlier Chuck Hinman column, was published posthumously last week, Chuck Hinman: IJMA : 188 : My Legacy (1922-2011)

By Chuck Hinman

Oyster Stew: A Hinman Family Tradition

You may think I have lost my marbles in suggesting that the weird looking and weird tasting oyster could be a part of the traditions of the Hinman family.

The Hinmans were long time Gage County, Nebraska farmers in the Blue Springs-Wymore-Liberty areas. Hinman farming in Nebraska started when great-grandpa Enoch Hinman moved to Nebraska from Illinois and bought land from "the old reservation" in 1882. The first Hinman farm was south of Wymore. Well, this is 2008 and there are no farmers left with the Hinman name but their tradition with oysters continue.

The nearest oyster beds are in Maine, several thousand miles northeast of Hinman farming activities. So what's the story?

I think my Dad, Arley Hinman, Nebraska farmer in the Liberty, Nebraska area started it in the 1930's. He came home from Allen's grocery store in Wymore with a pint of fresh oysters. "What's that," Mom asked as their three kids gathered around the kitchen table and gawked at their Dad eating several of those slimy-looking creatures as though he liked them. Yuk!

Later on that evening we had our first oyster stew supper. It wasn't bad if you spooned the oyster to the side of your plate. That began a tradition that has existed as late as Christmas 2007 -- less than a month ago.

Dad seemed to have an inside track with the manager of the meat department at Allen's. He went from buying a pint at a time to having a standing order of a gallon of fresh oysters from Maine held for Arley Hinman. The price in 2007 for a gallon of fresh oysters was a whopping $60.00. Back in the early days Dad would get a supply of the paper containers and portion a gallon of oysters into those containers (some as small as a half pint) for Mom's and Dad's special winter-time suppers when their family was long gone doing their own things. They kept the oyster supply in their freezer.

Then on special holiday gatherings of the family, Mom never failed to have oyster stew at our initial supper meal. Of course the sit-down supper meal was always preceded by the "raw oyster eaters" gathering in the kitchen where Mom had held out a generous supply of raw oysters for them to enjoy. The laughter was deafening as the Hinmans gathered to celebrate their tradition! What a family!

I can't say I love the taste of raw oysters. I do like oyster strew. The left-over stew is even better. In our family, it seemed to be a test of your masculinity to eat a raw oyster and keep it down! That skill seemed to run in family lines. Even little sister Joy Ann became a champion raw-oyster chug-a-lugger at Hinman family gatherings.

Well, that was the fun and games part of the family tradition.

Even though a lot of the family members are gone, I am glad to hear the oyster stew tradition continues. My sister-in-law, Lindy Hinman, brother Bob's widow of Liberty, Nebraska kept the tradition going by serving oyster stew at a recent holiday gathering of their family. Of course she had chili soup for family members who aren't to keen on oysters. Too bad....

Written by Chuck Hinman, January 29, 2008.

This story was posted on 2011-12-25 03:40:17
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