Thursday, January 19, 2006

eating raw oysters...

(Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book, 1884)

Open the oysters;
look them over carefully;
remove any fine pieces of shell which may adhere to them;
then season slightly with salt and pepper, and let them stand half an hour in the ice chest.

Serve on fancy oyster plates, or on the deep half-shell with slices of lemon.

Serve with small squares of buttered brown bread.

Simple as that, eh? Mrs. Lincoln (Abe's wife) made the preparation of raw oysters a rather simple task. But then again, why wouldn't it be? I mean, think about it. You have a couple dozen fresh oysters in the shell, you're planning a raw oyster feast and the only real trick is to get them out of the closed shell and into a half shell... preferably half of the shell they've been harvested in.

Anyone who's grown up around bays, sounds, inlets that have seafood like oysters, clams, shrimp, crabs and the likes know how to get those rugged little shell fish to open their shells.

Some steam them, others simply plop them on the grill of the barby while others do it the manly-man way and use a "shucker-knife" designed to slip between the two shell halves and slice the muscle that holds the shell closed. A drawback to this way of getting the little critters to "open up" is that sometimes... well, actually quite often the knife doesn't know exactly where to stop and slips right out the other side of the shell or glances off the shell and stabs the would be oyster shucker/eater in the holding hand... I know from experience.

Therefore, my preferred method of getting the shellfish to open widely is to plop them on the barbeque grate and let them warm a bit. By the time they're opened they're also a bit steamed.

But then, enough of this preparation chatter. The real art is eating raw oysters, not preparing them.

How would you go about it? Do you chew? Do you swallow? Do you bite them? Do you cut them up first and eat them in pieces?

It's all a matter of preference, isn't it? I mean, if you want the full flavor of an oyster (and are actually ready for the FULL flavor) then you'll probably want to chew it, savoring every grinding, cutting bite you make before swallowing the oyster mush and plopping in another one. I guarantee you'll get the full oyster flavor by chewing it. That's my preference. I consider myself somewhat of an oyster connoisseur'... having worked my way up in the oyster eating world by selfishly promising to eat as many oysters as I can before I "move on".

Now, if you're more of a "texture" person then you might want to simply plop one in your mouth and let it slide down your throat... somewhat whole. That way you get the slimy, smooth texture of the oyster as it passes across your tongue then slips down your throat and splashes into your stomach juices. Oh, you get a hint of flavor but not the full, sometimes overwhelming taste of oyster goo... a taste that some just can't get used to. Also, some say this method is a bit sensuous... I'm not altogether convinced of that but hey, everyone has their opinions. And besides, should the oyster rebel in your stomach and decide to come back up it's too big to pass through your nostrils so would most likely projectile from your opened mouth... a bit more trendy than sniffing oyster snot for the next three days.

The other methods... the cutting, dicing, biting... well, those are actually "transitional" methods. I look at them as the point in between swallowing the oyster whole and chewing it. Biting, dicing, cutting the oyster not only prepares the accomplished swallower for that full oyster flavor but also preps the swallower for what an oyster's innards looks like... which can be a bit frightening to a novice chewer. Especially if they're in competition with someone else and happen to see inside the other chewer's mouth. That view is not for the squeamish or ill of heart.

Either way, unless you shuck the puppies they're all a bit cooked anyways... steamed or grilled... aren't they?

However you decide to eat raw oysters... however you prefer, just make sure they're clean, healthy oysters. There's some pretty rugged toxins out there that are sometimes associated with the oyster family. Steer clear of them. They can kill you.

Finally, in the end... while at your oyster feast make sure you serve them with copious amounts of beer, whiskey, vodka or whatever your pleasure.


No comments: