Wilderness Danger & Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

Three people sat in the long station wagon.

It was 1959. The father, mother, and young son were on the Alaska Highway. Somewhere in the wilderness of British Columbia. Or maybe the Yukon. It was hard to tell. They were in that section that wove in and out of the two provinces.

The Alaska Highway was all wilderness in 1959. A long gravel road that wound through the woods and mountains of western Canada.

A trailer, built by the father, was attached to their vehicle. Everything they owned had been loaded into it.

Up until a few minutes earlier, they were proceeding north to Alaska. Proceeding slowly. But proceeding. Then came the frightening screech and their vehicle came to a sudden stop. The father crawled under the car. When he emerged minutes later, he didn’t have good news. It looked, he said, as though the damage was serious.

Now they sat in the stalled vehicle wondering what to do. They knew there were no facilities for either people or vehicles within miles. Even if there was they had no way to get there. To strike out walking through the wilderness could have serious consequences.

Then came the noise. A rumbling, rattling, rustling noise.

The father and mother looked at each other. They tried to keep their son from seeing the concern in their eyes. What could it be? Could this day get any worse?

A grader came around a bend in the road. A crew leveling the gravel highway. The same grader that threw up the rock which damaged the young family’s vehicle.

One man was in the cab of the grader followed by two others in a pick up truck. They rolled to a stop near the young family’s stalled car. The highway crew was appalled when they realized they were the cause of the damage to the vehicle.

All the men worked together to unhitch the trailer. They used a chain to connect the car to the grader. The young family crowded into the cab of the pick up truck with one of the highway crew. The other members of the crew followed, slowly pulling the car along.

The young family soon found themselves in the highway crew’s camp, consisting of several Quonset huts. The crew lived in the uniquely rounded structures with their families. One of them invited them in for dinner and gave them beds in which to spend the night.

Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

When they awoke the next morning, they discovered the camp mechanics had worked all night. Their vehicle was repaired. The crew had driven back to reattach the family’s trailer. All was in place for them to be on their way.

The Canadians refused payment of any kind. Except for four relatively fresh tomatoes the father’s aunt had given them when they stopped by her house four days earlier. Fresh vegetables were hard to come by in the wilderness.

“And that’s why Robert likes Canadians,” Darcey said. “Did he ever tell you that story?”

It was a warm but stormy December evening in New Orleans. Trent and Darcey sat in the parlor of their home on Governor Nicholls Street in the Veuix Carre sipping flutes of Prosecco as they watched the rain pour down and the lightening flash.

“No, he never told me that one,” Trent replied.

Darcey smiled as she drained her glass.

“Let’s have dinner,” she said.

Darcey’s Oyster Casserole

1/2 cup butter

1 cup green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

1 quart oysters, (reserve juice)

1/2 cup parsley

2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

bread crumbs (Darcey favors Panko)

In a heavy skillet, saute the green onion in the butter. When soft, add the Worcestershire and oysters. Cook until the oysters begin to curl.

Add the parsley, pickled jalapenos, and cheese. Continue to cook until the cheese is melted. If the mixture gets too thick, thin it with some of the reserved oyster liquid.

Spoon the mixture into a buttered, oven-proof baking dish. Cover with bread crumbs.

Cook in a 350 oven until the casserole is bubbly . It should take about fifteen minutes. If the bread crumbs aren’t brown, zap the dish under the broiler for a minute or two.

As they say in New Orleans, “Bon temps!”




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