February 02, 2009

Acme Oyster House: Down the hatch

The other night the Travel Channel ran a show wherein the host ate his way through New Orleans. The puffy gentleman popped into the kitchens of about a dozen Big Easy establishments, sampling crawfish and po'boys and all manner of boiled, barbecued, gumboed, jambalayaed and deep fried culinary staples. As we watched, I said to Mike, "I bet he goes to the Acme Oyster House." Since the show was all about excess -- stuffing one's face at each sitting with food enough to feed a family for a day -- I bet that the biggest pig-out of all, the acme of this eating orgy, would take place at the Acme Oyster House.

Sure enough, after the final commercial break, our jowly host entered Acme, sat at a table covered with one of Acme's signature black and white-checked tablecloths, and geared up for his attempt to down 15 dozen oysters in under 60 minutes, which feat would land him a place on Acme's oyster eater wall of fame. (He did it, with 20 minutes to spare, and it was disgusting to watch.)

On our cross country trip the kids and I spent a marvelous four days in New Orleans, and one day we went to Acme for lunch. This excerpt from Ribbons of Highway: A Mother-Child Journey Across America takes you there:

We called Mike from the Acme Oyster House in the Quarter to tell him what we were eating. Dana gave the report: “Hi Daddy, it’s us. We’re in New Orleans. Mommy is eating gumbo poopa, Adam has a po’boy, and I’m eating hush puppies.”

The stall door in Acme’s ladies’ room advertised a product I’d never heard of – one that must sell well here. A poster touted Alka-Seltzer’s MORNING RELIEF: “Fast Hangover Relief. TONIGHT You’re Feeling Goooood. TOMORROW Feel Better Than You Should.” Necessary equipment in the Quarter, where even quiet, polyestered couples walk around with cups of beer and tropically flavored alcohol in long neon-pink glasses, filled and refilled at “To-Go” bars.

Hollywood was shucking oysters as we read Acme’s Wall of Fame.

“Those the champion oyster eaters?” I asked.

“Those’re the fools.”

Hollywood told me that the name of the new Leader of the House hadn’t been put up yet. “Jes’ las’ week a guy et 41 dozen. He’s goin’ on the Wall. An’ you know what he et after that? Sof’ shell crab. Raw.”

The new champ’s name would join the likes of Bill Poole from Berkley Heights, NJ, who downed 32 dozen while watching Super Bowl XXIV in 1990, and Edna-Sara Lodin who carried back to Stockholm well-earned tales of ingesting 16 dozen Louisiana oysters on May 29, 2000. Way to go, Edna.

(To order a copy of Ribbons, see the right sidebar.)