Saturday, January 31, 2009


I was reading bon appetit today and came across a good article on oysters by Eric Steinman.  Oysters are one of my favorite foods and I thought I would share some tips on picking out the perfect batch.

What should an oyster taste like?  Like the sea, or to quote the French poet Leon-Paul Fargue, "Like kissing the sea on the lips".  

Are oysters considered a sustainable and green food?  Oyster farms are beneficial to estuaries, and oysters eat algae, which helps clear the water.  Also, shell beds provide a habitat for many small species.  Oysters are considered a keystone species.

What should one look for when buying oysters?  Oysters in the grocery store should have their shells tightly closed.  They should feel heavy for their size, like fruit.  Avoid any that sound hollow when tapped.  By law, there must be a tag displaying when the oysters were harvested.  Ask to see it, Look for oysters that have been out of the water less than a week.  They should smell fresh, if they don't, don't eat them.

Is it true that one should only eat oysters in months that contain the letter "R"?  Today, with farmed oysters and monitoring for pathogens, you can eat oysters year round-BUT they still taste best in fall and winter.

Eating raw oysters on the half shell can be difficult without appearing awkward.  How does one maintain a sense of decorum and grace?  You have to proceed with confidence and make carnality an asset.  Think like a predator.  Grab the shell, raise it to your lips, tilt your head back, slurp the oyster in, and give a few chews to release full flavor.  The little cocktail forks are a disaster: save them for the Vienna sausages.

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