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?