Cape Breton is 1000 miles from New York City, give or take a dozen or so miles. It’s a long drive, something like 17 hours depending on your speed. But it’s absolutely worth it.
I went up to visit a friend whose family has been going up there since the early 80s. I’d never been to Canada, but was lured by what seemed like an impossibly idyllic and remote place. And that’s exactly what I found.
In particular, there were stories of oysters that could be harvested directly from the shallows of the Bras d’Or Lake, the brackish lake that cuts a deep bay up through the center of Cape Breton. Because of it’s protection from ocean swell, steady wind and utterly beautiful scenery, It’s a dream destination for a lot of sailors cruising north. We saw boats flying the Bermuda flag, boats from Woods Hole, MA and Canada as well.
For me though, it was about the oysters. Even though I’m a total fanatic, I’ve rarely had the chance to pick them myself. Mussels, yes. Clams, yes. Fish, yes. Never oysters.
I wasn’t disappointed.
In water just below the knee, the oysters grow and are there free for the taking. They seem to prefer the eel grass and we shuttled around the bay picking them off the sand, careful not to over-harvest any given area.
With a bucket full with enough of them for an afternoon snack, we headed in and shucked our take right on the side of the water. I’ve never experienced such freshness. No ice required. No lemons. No cocktail sauce. Just some fresh oysters, an oyster knife and a few cans of Labatt.