Wendy Lind stoops beside the calm waters of Case Inlet in Belfair, Washington, and digs among the rocks and sand. At low tide, she easily uncovers a muddy handful of heavy, fresh oysters and drops them into a large bucket. Destined for a smoldering fire pit later in the afternoon, this tasty catch seems particularly sweet―the Linds seeded their shoreline several years ago with juvenile oysters, and now they're mature enough for today's harvest.
Daughter Allison recalls her parents' dreams of owning a coastal home: "It was always my dad's goal to live on the water. My folks were looking at property in the area when they came to this house, walked out on the deck, and immediately saw my grandparents' house across the inlet―the place that we had spent years of Sunday afternoons eating together. It was a sign. Mom and Dad had planned to visit Sweden that year, but they cancelled the trip and moved here instead. They haven't taken a vacation since."
Today's feast is the Lind family's Sunday tradition. "We have an oyster roast nearly every week with family and friends," Wendy says. "My husband, Jerry, and son, Jefferson, are the barbecue kings―the rest of us try to make potluck contributions to the meal."
Rounding out the simple menu is Spicy Grilled Corn: fresh corn slathered with a mixture of mayonnaise, butter, and cayenne pepper that Jefferson says tastes best when caramelized over the fire. A crisp garden salad features a raspberry vinaigrette created by―and named for―Wendy's cousin Liz. The catch of the day deserves a few toppings, so Liz brings out Basil-Garlic Butter Sauce and a Champagne Mignonette she prepared earlier in the day, along with a commercial sweet and spicy hot sauce.
Wendy heads to the bulkhead by water's edge for a game of fetch with the family dogs, Joy and Mickey. Meanwhile, Jefferson and Jerry tend to the pit grill, deftly moving oysters and foil-wrapped corn around the grate with synchronized skill that comes from years of practice.
When the grilled dishes are ready, family and friends load up plates and enjoy a buffet by the bay. After the last oyster is shucked, banana s'mores make an appearance. This gooey treat is a new twist on an old favorite, with dark chocolate and graham crackers, and bananas in place of marshmallows. But dessert doesn't signal an end to the day. "We love to keep the flame stoked all night, long after all the food is gone," Wendy says. The group settles in to watch as day falls into evening.
"Sunday family dinners have been a tradition for generations," Allison says. "Now that my parents have this beautiful spot on the beach, we've created a new tradition of really being together as a family, spending the day by the water―canoeing, beach walks, throwing the ball for the dogs―and of course, eating."