South Carolina

I’ve always liked South Carolina. But I like it even more on days like this.

The weather is overcast. The sky is cloudy. The air is so humid you could sip it with a straw.

Although the humidity is one of the best parts of South Carolina. It seeps into your pores, into your olfactory senses and into your clothes. And if you have curly hair, for example, you are screwed.

I’m on the road today. The wide saltmarshes pass by my windows like smudged impressionistic canvases of green and gold. The sky is a swell of grays. I see a blue heron in the distance, standing on a dead tree.

I stop at a little seafood joint. The place is surrounded by marshland grass, a wide open sky, scattered live oaks, and roughly 8 million Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The place looks like a tourist trap on crack. But it’s getting late so I go inside and order a beer.

“You want a South Carolina brewed beer, sweetie?” the waitress says.

“Is a bear Catholic?” I say.

She pauses a beat.

“I don’t get it,” she says. “Is that a joke?”

I get no respect.

She brings me a beer that’s brewed in Greenville. She cracks open the tallboy can. The brewery is called Birds Fly South. The beer is named “Days Like This.” It’s a Kölsch, whatever that means.

“Days Like This,” I say, reading the can.

“It drinks pretty good,” the waitress says. “It’s one of my favorites.”

Then she hands me a menu. “You want some oysters? Just got’em in a few hours ago.”

I fold the menu closed. Because this woman is singing my culinary song. I am a Florida child. Raw oysters are my love language. Especially on Days Like This.

The waitress brings my platter of bivalves.

“Any hot sauce, sweetie?”

I shake my head. I don’t need hot sauce or fresh lemon if the oysters are good. In fact, I don’t need anything but a starched napkin and the Joy of the Lord.

Namely, because an oyster is its own work of art. You wouldn’t douse the Mona Lisa in Texas Pete’s, would you? Neither would you cover the Sistine Chapel in horseradish. No, an oyster is God’s masterstroke. And as such, an oyster must be allowed to fully express itself without being buried beneath globs of manmade effluvia.

The guy beside me at the bar is from Illinois. He says he’s never tasted oysters before. He is watching me eat the snot-like substance with a weird look.

“You actually like those?” he says.

“I do.”


“Hard to explain.”

“They look like ginormous boogers.”

So I slurp one, just to watch him squirm.

These are Eastern oysters, straight from the Atlantic. The East Coast oyster is a little salty. It has a coppery flavor, and strong notes of festering, rotting seaweed. They are more chewy than Florida oysters. But lighter than Rocky Mountain oysters.

“What’s it taste like?” the man asks.

The waitress answers first.

“It tastes like eating gunk off the ocean floor.”

Illinois makes a face. “That sounds gross.”

The waitress shrugs. “It ain’t if you’re from South Carolina.”

The man is evidently adventurous. He orders a half dozen on the half shell and a Days Like This beer.

I slap his back and give him an attaboy. His gastronomical bravery should be saluted. I have met too many people who proclaim they are disgusted by oysters even though they have never tried them.

The oysters arrive. Illinois pokes them with a fork as though he is expecting a tentacle to grab him.

“I heard you weren’t supposed to eat them in the summer,” he says.

“Myth,” says the waitress.

“What if I get sick?” he says.

“We all have to die sometime,” she says.

“But I don’t know how to eat them the right way,” he says.

So the waitress steals one from his plate without asking. She demonstrates. And frankly, I’ve never seen more competent oyster technique.

The woman takes the shell. She cups it to her mouth. She throws her head back. She slurps. Then she wipes her mouth with her sleeve and says, “Aaaaahh.”

My new friend decides to go for it. We are all staring at him as he places the grayish mucus blob onto his cracker.

He closes his eyes. He eats it. He chews. Slowly. He swallows.

And the light of Christ comes into his eyes.

The man says nothing, but it’s written on his face. He eats another oyster. And another. Until they are gone.

“Do you like them?” The waitress asks.

“They’re actually pretty good,” he says.

We all applaud.

I leave my money on the bar and stand to leave. Because I’ve just witnessed a minor miracle.

I don’t care what you’ve heard. South Carolina is really is a cool state. But it’s even cooler on Days Like This.


  1. Tmitsss - July 19, 2022 6:41 am

    A Murrels Inlet story. I was courting a cute redhead and she invited me to a family fish fry. There were steamed oysters. I was eating oysters and she was opening them for me. Said she didn’t like them. Said hadn’t tried them since she was a child. I kept encouraging her to give them another try. Maybe it was the beer, but she did. She liked them and never opened another oyster for me even after all the years we were married. I am an idiot.

  2. Steve McCaleb - July 19, 2022 6:50 am

    Absolutely love it when people gag, puke, hark and make horrible faces when faced with a raw oyster. Leaves more for us who appreciate them. The man( God rest his adventurous soul) I admire was that first pilgrim who ate the first one. Not everyone has hard bark on them to to pick up what looks like a rock, prize it open whilst sustaining several bone-deep gashes and then eat the innards which resembles the nasal flotsam of a T-Rex. Now that was a MAN. Pretty sure he hunted grizzly bears with a green hickory limb. Anyway…hat’s off to him.

  3. Jan - July 19, 2022 7:42 am


  4. Steve Winfield (lifer) - July 19, 2022 7:59 am

    I’ve eaten them from Washington State to Boston. There’s none better than Bayou La Batre Alabama.
    Hi Sean & Jamie. I miss you both.

  5. Linda Willson - July 19, 2022 9:04 am

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane, again. I grew up in Virginia in the shadows of the Blue Ridge mountains but close enough to the shore that fresh Oysters could arrive in our little town on a truck within hours of being shucked. Oysters were our traditional Xmas Eve fare served in every delicious fashion possible starting with Oyster stew followed closely by downing them raw, then fried. Of course there were fresh Blue Crab cakes waiting in the wings but that’s a another whole culinary delight in itself!

  6. Lynn B. - July 19, 2022 9:10 am

    I just ordered a dozen last night at Mac’s on Marietta Square, hoping to share a few with my friends .They wouldn’t try one single taste. I enjoyed all 12 by myself and it was glorious!

  7. Bill conkright - July 19, 2022 9:58 am

    Sean, thanks ever so much for these gems! I love Soutb Carolina too. I think it’s really the best. And I’m from Texas. Go figure. Keep up the good work

  8. Susan Staton - July 19, 2022 10:28 am

    Sean, I grew up in South Carolina and you just sang my song! Now I am homesick for my little town in the upstate, but you are making the trip for me. I loved the sketches that were on your pages for a few days, hope you bring them back.

  9. Ed (Bear) - July 19, 2022 10:45 am

    Now I want to try oysters!

    I hope you don’t mind me barging in on your audience! But I would also like to invite your commenters and comment readers to try my website. (Some of what I’ve written was inspired by your Sean of the South writings.) ((clicking on my name above, Ed (Bear) in bold letters, is also a link to my website))

    BTW – Ed’s Art Net is not a business but simply my hobby of art and writings for Internet sharing. An audience completes art!

  10. AnitaBee - July 19, 2022 11:24 am

    Nothing better than fresh oysters from our SC coast. You described our bivalves perfectly and our folks work hard to keep us locals supplied. We do like to keep the myth of “don’t eat oysters in a month that doesn’t have an ‘r’ in the name” so us locals can have a full supply for our weekly oyster roast! Come back soon, you hear?!

  11. sjhl7 - July 19, 2022 11:57 am

    Music to my soul! Thank you, Sean.

  12. Jean Dunlap - July 19, 2022 12:00 pm

    I just read this to my husband- a South Carolina boy. He’s still laughing! Thanks for starting our day off with a smile.

  13. SW - July 19, 2022 12:02 pm

    You start my every morning with a laugh
    Thank you for that

  14. HOMER CLARK - July 19, 2022 12:15 pm

    Thanks a lot, you’ve got me drooling for half shell treats

  15. Larry Evans - July 19, 2022 12:32 pm

    Love raw oysters ! Great article. Thanks for adding effluvia to my vocabulary. Don’t know where I can drop it into a conversation but it will be interesting to see the reaction.

    • Jocelyn - July 19, 2022 2:20 pm

      just travel to the coast and effluvia is an easy word to use.

  16. sheryl Turner Watts - July 19, 2022 12:44 pm

    Im from SC and still live here. Have traveled a lot and still like calling SC home. Love oysters – raw, steamed, grilled and fried. Glad you enjoyed your trip through SC. Oh, and we now have a Buc-cees in SC on I-95 for all of the beach goers to visit.

  17. Leigh Amiot - July 19, 2022 12:50 pm

    I had a live-in grandmother the first 14 years of my life. She made it a point to have oyster stew on Christmas Eve every year. My first job was at an oyster bar in the ‘70s, was underage, people weren’t so strict then. Served up many a platter of oysters, but never got the courage to eat a raw one. Loving your road trip, thank you for taking us along!

  18. Regina Vanderneut - July 19, 2022 1:07 pm

    I feel like I am back in Alabama when I read your articles. Thanks and keep me remembering!!!!

  19. Annie - July 19, 2022 1:33 pm

    You’re singing my song, too! Love love love them and my sweet SC. I’ve actually had ‘oyster elbow’ from shucking too many oyster roasts. LOL!

  20. Gene Oltman - July 19, 2022 2:10 pm

    Loved the South Carolina entry. The “light of Christ” comment made me laugh out loud. Thanks for making my day

  21. Mize Rosemary - July 19, 2022 2:14 pm

    another good 🪺 true one – thks

  22. Jocelyn - July 19, 2022 2:19 pm

    Nothing like a raw oyster right out of the bay. I favor Rappahannock, VA oysters very buttery and very little brine. Needs nothing but a tongue. Cheers!

  23. Mary - July 19, 2022 2:38 pm

    Being a South Carolinian all I can do is chuckle. Never heard them referred to a ginormous bugger.

  24. Linda Moon - July 19, 2022 3:22 pm

    Charleston…the best of South Carolina for me. Oysters…not so much (actually, not at all, but I didn’t want to be rude in my brief comment here.) So, I’ll end on a positive note: Sean is one of the best of the South for me too!

  25. Karen - July 19, 2022 3:31 pm

    Love it.

  26. Lynn - July 19, 2022 3:35 pm

    Hey Sean of the South, I just discovered your writing on an Appalachian Trail forum. I hit subscribe and I do not regret it. Your writing makes my heart happy.

  27. Joe - July 19, 2022 5:54 pm

    Always heard Good people find good everywhere they go. ! You found good in FL, AL, TN, and SC. You will be dancing in the Isles when you get to Athens.

  28. Patricia Gibson - July 19, 2022 6:31 pm

    Cool story but I hate raw oysters 🤣

  29. Susan Kennedy - July 19, 2022 7:00 pm

    I love you but pass the barf bag…🤢

  30. Wynde Edwards - July 19, 2022 8:34 pm

    Absolutely love this piece!!!!!! The writing takes you to the place…….puts you in the moment. A much appreciated mini escape from the reality of life!

  31. Pamela - July 19, 2022 8:54 pm

    Finally, someone who understands my love of oysters without molesting them with condiments! I live in Charleston and your description of the marshland is spot on. I felt like I was driving Highway 17 through the ACE Basin.

    • D. E. Thompson - July 20, 2022 6:02 pm

      Wow. Most telling – she trashed the South and yet still lives in Nashville. She needs to stick some hot chicken where the sun don’t shine..

  32. Karen Snyder - July 20, 2022 2:31 am

    This column really stirred the memory pot, Sean. I could almost smell that marsh, but I never considered sipping the humidity, only cutting through it with a knife. I lived and worked in Charleston for fourteen years and I miss her. In spite of all those years, plus a few in VA and NC, I have never eaten a raw oyster, and I don’t feel at all short-changed. I will cheerfully put away a plate of the fried variety, however, and muggy as it is tonight here in northern Indiana, an icy beer sounds just about right.

  33. Judy Beaver Waldrop - July 20, 2022 12:09 pm

    You stt making my mouth water. I love em

  34. Kate in Aiken Co - July 20, 2022 12:53 pm

    You mean Charleston or the coast or the Low Country. This is like writing an article about Atlanta and saying you love GA. Or my big toe and saying you love my whole body. South Carolina is a lot more complicated than salt marshes and oysters and possibly much less charming.

  35. Terry - July 20, 2022 3:19 pm

    As a South Caroline born and bred daughter, I love it when someone says something nice about my state. We more often than not, get a bad rap.

  36. Kathy Moran - July 21, 2022 12:27 am

    Great story and better description of southern Oysters. Yum!

  37. Penny Lozon - July 25, 2022 11:17 am

    Sean, if you have never squeezed a few drops of lime over your raw oyster, and it sounds like you haven’t based on your column, then I would highly recommend you try it at least once. (How do you like my use of comma’s in that last sentence) I too hail from the great state of Florida and while buying oysters in Apalachicola many years ago, an oysterman suggested I give it a try. It actually intensifies the flavor of the oyster rather than disguising it. I too am a purist when it comes to my oysters. No crackers, cocktail sauce or horseradish for me, thank you very much. Just the pure unadulterated flavor of the ocean.

  38. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 2, 2022 2:07 am


Leave a Comment