Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Oysters, Huitres, whatever...

If Oysters be the food of love basically I’m fucked. I can still vividly remember my first one; an experience etched deeply in my memory.

It was at Borough market many years ago and a man that looked like a homeless Santa crossed with Captain Birdseye handed me a single quivering bivalve on its pearlescent plate of a shell. He began to smile as I eyed it warily and belly laughed as I knocked it back.

Icy cold and salty fresh it seemed to fight to stay in my mouth despite my best efforts to get it down. Remembering the Captains words I bit it once or twice but the texture did nothing to assist my desire to swallow.

Needless to say this experience stayed with me for sometime but I always felt like I was missing something as I watched people throwing them down their necks with unreserved joy.

My next attempt would be over the channel in France but this time the beasts would be cooked. Lightly grilled with sautéed leeks, cream, and a breadcrumb crust I was mentally prepared to give them another go.

They seemed somehow more sophisticated this way but unfortunately just felt like a mouthful of someone else’s warm snot between my teeth. I quickly realised that cooking them was not the way forward.

As the years passed I’d try them every now again, just to test the water so to speak but never had much luck. I was walking through Royan Market over Easter though and spied the great banks of fishmonger’s all with displays of Oysters on ice.

I felt the urge to give them one last go; my last ditch attempt to see if I could ever love the humble Huitre! I have to say I think my tastes may finally be changing because instead of cold snotty revulsion I could actually taste something I could almost like.

Laced lightly with sauce aux shallot or even a shot of Tabasco they were actually a pleasure to behold. Cold, fresh, and deliciously sweet when slid gently into your mouth alongside the sharp tang of red wine vinegar or the gently spice of the Tabasco.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I love them but at least after years of trying I can finally say I respect them. Clearly the lesson here is if at first you don’t love something keep knocking them down your neck till urge to vomit goes away. How do you like yours?


  1. The first oyster i ever ordered took the form of an oyster shot (in beer) at the tender age of 21 in Pensacola, Florida. Needless to say, I never looked back and have loved them unreservedly since. However, I do take the precaution of only eating them in places I absolutely trust. I don't want one bad oyster to ruin my enjoyment forever.

    Actually, I've just remembered that one of my dad's favourite anecdotes about me is that i used to eat oysters off his fruit de mer platters in France as a child, so perhaps I've always been a lover of the 'food of love'

    1. My Lady is very much the same, she's been eating them since she was a baby and loves them. Not much seafood she wont eat to be honest and she's more than happy to eat prawns whole, legs an all. In short she is a monster for the fishies! I think it helps if you start young.

  2. My first oyster experience was not dissimilar to yours. I think I can live without a second try.

  3. I'm exactly the same, I don't love oysters, they're okay, but definitely over-rated in my opinion. Alos, I still don't understand why people tell you not to chew them? How are you supposed to taste them otherwise?

  4. Yep it took me a while to really like them, I need to have some nice shallot/vinegar alongside....

  5. It's taken me a long time to like oysters, and it was the tiny kushi oysters when in San Francisco which turned it around for me. I still can't eat loads, but would happily devour 2 or 3.

  6. With you on that one EuWen, same with Mussels the little ones are always sweeter!

  7. Oh man, I really quite enjoy the sea-scented shellfish, hot or cold. But, like feedetgastro, I am careful about where I get them from, and they have to be very, very fresh. As a solitary oyster lover in a family of people who really aren;t keen, i can totally understand why people don;t enjoy them though.

  8. Ah taste buds...its an age thing


  9. I've always loved oysters, I don't remember my first experience really. My dad has always said to me - 'remember. Always smell an oyster before you eat it...'.

    I like mine with a little drop of tabasco and the shallot vinagrette, though I was once told that the vinaigrette is there to cleanse the palate in between mouthfuls.

  10. The final fish frontier for me and one I am not ready to encounter yet!

  11. thanks for sharing.