Two of my favorite things about D.C. are the mild climate and the diversity of people. This New Year’s weekend, both came together perfectly. Being the capitol, we naturally attract people from all over the country, and I feel lucky to say I have friends from the East, West, Midwest, and South, though very few that are actually from the D.C. area. I recently stumbled upon a group of friends from North Carolina, a place I’ve never been and know very little about. Apparently the tradition there during the winter months is to have oyster roasts.

Having grown up in the mountains and having spent little time in the South, I had no idea what an oyster roast was, and I’m generally suspicious of seafood in general, so I obviously needed to see what this was about. I was also delighted at the warm weather. In most places I’ve lived, attending an outdoor party on a December evening would be miserable, but in D.C. the weather was just right.

When I walked into the backyard of the party, I saw two things: the beginnings of a roaring fire and a table full of oysters. Okay, fire is something I can get behind, but oysters? We’ll see. The first thing I learned how to do was actually shuck an oyster and eat it raw. I nearly cut my finger off on the first one but got the hang of it. To my surprise, there was neither a fishy taste nor smell, and with a little lemon juice I was shocked to find myself liking these little guys.

Once the fire was hot enough, the oysters went on top of a grill with a cloth over them to hold in the heat. Neat. I’ve done many a grilling over an open flame, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it. While the oysters cooked, our hosts broke out their instruments and started to play. Because, obviously, they were in a bluegrass band, and with their New Year’s show the next evening, they needed to practice a bit. Ummm… what? Warm December night, good fire, fresh oysters, and live bluegrass. That was not what I expected to kick off my New Year’s weekend in D.C., but I couldn’t have had a better time. I think I just figured out what people like so much about Southern living.