Thursday, 17 September 2015


“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” - Jonathan Swift

Looking at the quote above, I must agree as raw oysters are not my cup of tea. When I was younger I refused to eat them and other shellfish outright, but now that I have developed a more inclusive diet and a more tolerant palate, I like oysters Kilpatrick, as long as they well cooked. Alternatively, I also enjoy them fried in seasoned flour or smoked (some excellent smoked oysters are available canned and here is my recipe using these). I also devised another recipe of my own that cooks the oysters well, while seasoning them and coating them in delicious baked mayonnaise.

Watching people eating raw oysters I am puzzled as they do not seem to savour or chew them, but rather swallow them whole forthwith to get the thing over and done with ASAP. I suppose that is one way of avoiding the issue of actually chewing and tasting them. One closes one’s eyes, thinks of England and swallows…

The oyster is any member of the families Ostreidae (true oysters) or Aviculidae (pearl oysters), and is a bivalve mollusk found in temperate and warm coastal waters of all oceans. Oysters are eaten by birds, starfishes, and snails, as well as by fishes, including skates. The oyster drill (Urosalpinx cinenea), a widely occurring snail, drills a tiny hole through the oyster shell with its tongue, then sucks out the living tissue. True oysters have been cultivated as food since pre-Christian times.

Pearl oysters also have long been valued for the precious pearls that develop in them. Pearls are formed in oysters by the accumulation of nacre, the material lining the oyster shell, around a solid piece of foreign matter that has become lodged inside the shell. Pearls formed in edible oysters are lustreless and of no value. The best natural pearls occur in a few Oriental species, particularly Meleagrina vulgaris, native to the Persian Gulf. This species is found mainly at depths of 14 to 36 metres. Pearls are taken mostly from oysters more than five years old.  Cultured pearls are grown around bits of mother-of-pearl inserted manually into the oyster. Most cultured pearls are grown in Japanese or Australian coastal waters.

In case you are a vegetarian, and oysters are quite out of the question, you can still enjoy salsify, also called Oyster Plant, or Vegetable Oyster (Tragopogon porrifolius), a biennial herb of the family Asteraceae, native to the Mediterranean region. The thick white taproot is cooked as a vegetable and has a flavour similar to that of oysters. Bon appetit!

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