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The GREENHORN of   Little   PECONIC BAY

Oyster farmer Peter Stein and his barge, La Perla, are ready for a day on the water.

The crew winches up a cage

farmer Peter Stein

LONG BEFORE IT WAS FAMOUS FOR PIZZA OR DIRTY-WATER DOGS OR CRONUTS, NEW YORK WAS A CITY OF OYSTERS.

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, oysters were both a junk food and a delicacy—sold from carts with hot corn and peanuts, and served in restaurants in dozens of styles. The oyster beds of New York Harbor were said to produce about half the world’s supply. When Charles Dickens came to town in 1842, he made a special point to go slumming and visit one of the city’s notoriously rough oyster cellars. Piles of discarded shells in the street were a smelly monument to a city on the rise. By the time city officials figured out it was best just to dump them back into the water, the moment had passed. By then, the harbor and surrounding rivers were toxic. The last local beds closed for good in 1927.

Now the closest oysters to the city of New York are raised off the coast of Long Island. This is where I went to visit Peeko Oysters, a farm near

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