Thursday, October 01, 2009

For Love of an Oyster

Oysters are probably one of those foods you feel strongly about one way or the other. Most people either love or hate them.

Since I slurped down my first raw oyster slathered in cocktail sauce at the age of 6, I have had a love affair with oysters. Soon thereafter I learned how to shuck them and got a lot of practice since we lived just down the road from Apalachicola, Florida, and oysters cost 2 cents apiece 5 decades ago.

After moving to DC in the early 70’s, I once gave an oyster party, where we bought a bushel of oysters, shucked them, and cooked them 7 different ways. My favorite was probably wrapped in bacon and broiled. Talk about traif! But I hadn’t even thought of converting to Judaism at that point in my life.

Today, despite the fact that I am now Jewish, I still relish eating oysters with my 75-year-old Jewish friend Betty. We periodically go to Black Salt, a seafood restaurant on MacArthur Blvd. that offers at least 3 varieties with a wonderful mignonette sauce. Unfortunately the price of oysters has gone up even faster than the rate of inflation.

Just today I read an interesting article in the New Yorker about efforts to restore the oyster population of New York Harbor, where in the days of the early colonists oyster reefs covered three hundred and fifty square miles of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary.

The oyster is an extremely interesting bi-valve. In addition to being able to change sex seemingly at random and to take a piece of grit and turn it into a pearl, oysters serve as a natural source of water purification. Earlier this summer, politicians, environmentalists, artists, and other mollusk enthusiasts came together at the Restoring the Urban Oyster conference, on Governors Island, to strategize a new beginning for the Eastern oyster. If they are successful, oysters will once again abound in this part of the country.

However, before you get out your shucking tools and ready the cocktail sauce, consider that if the baby oysters do their job removing the toxins from the water, they’ll be dangerous to eat. Hopefully there will always be oysters from safer waters to satisfy the cravings of people like me.


Blogger Cyndy said...

Wouldn't it be nice if they would consider finding a way to prevent the toxins from getting into the water to begin with? Then the oysters could clean up whatever was left over and eventually there'd be clean water and clean oysters. In my dreams.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Terry said...

My Dad loved oyster stew, which my mother made for him when she could get fresh oysters, which was not often in landlocked Idaho! I found it vile and have never cared for oysters any way they were presented, though I keep trying them. I love most seafood, so I keep thinking I just haven't met the right oyster yet.

1:59 AM  
Blogger bozoette said...

I adore oysters! My Pop and I could slurp 'em down by the bushel, the brinier the better!

11:42 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Like Terry, my mother would make oyster stew at varied times during the winter months. At that point, I still abstained from them.

A few years ago at Christmas, I decided to buck up and give raw oysters a try. Loved them. The next Christmas I was at a seafood restaurant at Baltimore Harbor, and my meal was nothing but oysters and champagne. Eating oysters, looking out at snow over water, sipping champagne. A wonderful memory. Something very Belle Epoque about it.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- I have known for many years that eating oysters was something like Russian roulette. Sometimes you get nasty things like hepatitis from them unfortunately. It would be nice if they were always safe.

Terry -- Keep trying!

Bozoette -- We'll have to go out for oysters on the half shell after we do our juggling thing.

Cube -- Maybe I will learn to like champagne if I drink it while eating oysters, 'ya think?

12:55 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I read that article too! Fascinating, wasn't it?!

As for oysters, though -- bleah. Never a fan here.

1:23 PM  

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