Culinary Antiques: Oyster Plates

My first oyster plate was a birthday present. I got it while I was working on my book Sex, Death & Oysters. Then I got another oyster plate for Christmas. I had never paid much attention to antique china up until that point. But I started asking around and I found out that oyster plates were treasured possessions in Gulf Coast households at the turn of the last century.

Turns out Houston seafood maven Jim Gossen is an oyster plate collector. (Makes sense, right?) He invited me over to see his collection one day. He said he used to have dozens and dozens of oyster plates. He sold some, and some are displayed on the wall above the oyster bar at Magnolia Grill. Gossen only keeps a few of his favorites -- some rare antiques and some plates created by famous potters -- in a display case at home.

Oyster plates were once considered the elegant way to serve oysters at a dinner party. I hope to expand my collection to six or eight since you want to give each diner their own plate when you serve oysters this way. If you run across one of these things at a garage sale, snag it. Some old oyster plates are now worth thousands of dollars.

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