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100 Years of Oysters

In the antique kitchen of his family’s restaurant, C.J. Gerdes slips a handful of corn-floured oysters into one of the six blackened pots on the stove. The fat froths like sea foam. Two minutes later, he pulls them out, their crisp coats crinkled and golden. Sandwiched between thick, buttered slices of “pan bread”—Casamento’s version of Texas toast—the oysters crackle as you bite into them, the crust crumbling down into the creamy centers.

I’ve been eating at Casamento’s, a New Orleans institution that turns 100 this year, since I was a child, but, somehow, I’ve never asked what C.J. fries his seafood in.

“It used to be we couldn’t tell people, or they’d make a face,” Linda Gerdes, C.J.’s wife, says with a laugh. “But then lard came back in style.”

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