Like the mighty Aphrodite, fully formed from Zeus’s brow, the oyster is a symbol of femininity. It is an aphrodisiac too, so I imagine Aphrodite was a big fan of oysters. I am not a fan of oysters. As a child I was even terrified of them. I have distinct memories of my entire family sitting at a round table at some restaurant in Florida staring at a plate full of oysters with amorous eyes. My family, a group of people I should be able to trust were waving the oysters in my face! Tempting me to try them! I just sat in disgust as they slurped and slopped up their oysters with delight. They weren’t going to make me do something I didn’t want to do! I was a stubborn rebel like that.
I’m honestly not sure why I was afraid though. Perhaps I was traumatized by that bit in Alice in Wonderland where the Walrus and the carpenter trick those poor oyster children into their bellies. I mean that was some messed up stuff.
So when I came to this recipe from French Farmhouse Cookbook, I almost skipped it. I tried to justify it to myself even, because it’s not really a recipe. It’s just an intro on how to eat oysters. After much deliberation, I realized that I needed to be adventurous and try new things because that’s what I love about life. So I took the plunge and ended up buying 6 oysters from LA Fish Mart in downtown LA.
The actual “recipe” calls for 2 dozen oysters, fresh seaweed or Swiss chard, 1 lemon, pepper, and sea salt. I didn’t want to eat nor buy that many obviously.
Anyway, the cookbook mentions to be selective about your oysters and even has a bit about Mareenes-Oleron oysters and how the labeling isn’t always accurate. So, I checked out some reviews on Yelp and discovered LA Fish Market. When I got there, I was shown four types of oysters from all over the world. They had some from Washington, Japan, and New Zealand. The Japanese ones were expensive as were the Washington ones. I can’t remember what the other type was. I just remember it was bigger than the others, so I went with the New Zealand ones since they were a good size and reasonably priced.
My book also recommend shucking my oysters on my own so they would be extremely fresh and I thought I’d try this out as well.
The term shucking,by the way, makes me think of when you buy a Christmas tree from a tree farm and they put it in that machine that supposedly shakes all the spare needles off. So I imagined something similar, only with oysters.
Shucking isn’t anything like that. All shucking is, is prying the shells apart. This process isn’t easy but It’s not too difficult either. It is recommended that you use a special shucking knife, but if you are a tightwad and/or just too lazy to buy one, you can do what I did and use a small curved knife.
Be careful though! I was lucky and didn’t harm myself, but I had to use a lot of force at times and could have easily slipped and cut myself. So make sure you cut away from your hands when you do this. This process also gets messy, so I recommend having a towel handy.
Anyway, to shuck, you just look for any space you can in the oyster shell. Once you do, you stab the knife in and then kind of curve it around until you can pry it open.
After being pried you just open the oysters and break them in half. After that, there’s not much else to do but cut your lemon into wedges and present the oysters on a bed of ice with lettuce or seaweed.
I decided to put mine on Swiss chard, but if you’re not planning on presenting the oysters to impress others, it’s not necessary to get any kind of greens. It’s more for show.
I have to admit the presentation does look nice though.
As I mentioned, I was nervous about trying the oysters. I squeezed a healthy portion of lemon on mine and sprinkled some pepper and sea salt. I closed my eyes, prayed to Aphrodite and took a bite. It wasn’t bad! I didn’t love it, but I wasn’t repulsed either.
In the end, oysters aren’t my thing, but I wouldn’t mind trying a different type in the future. I’m just a pepper and asparagus kind of girl. Sorry Aphrodite!