Love begins coarsely with a wedge. Slip it into the crack at the hinge. Pry gently, softly. Relish the groaning, but watch out for the bite of the protective shell. After exerting a little force, a gentle coaxing causes the tender, wet, fleshy flower to expose itself–the precious pale bud soaked in its own liqueur. Its edge decorated darkly with an inviting hairy mantle. A hint of lemon. Press the mouth against its quivering mass. Ecstasy.
When I tried to open my first oyster with a butter knife on the kitchen table, I fumbled awkwardly. The thin blade didn’t make a good enough wedge. I broke into the red toolbox and got out a flathead screwdriver. Being forceful, even a little playful, allowed me access to the oyster so that I could strip the oyster down to its bare flesh with the butter knife. I struggled to find the foot at first, but by the third oyster it all made sense and I found a smooth rhythm.
The fishmonger at Berkeley’s Monterey Fish Market used an oyster knife and diligently showed me how to shuck an oyster. He packed us up a small sack of oyster and a bag full of ice, so that we could eat some oysters at home. He told me that I didn’t really need an oyster knife and that a butter knife would work too. The butter knives my wife and I own fall into the way too thin category to pry open a shell. The screwdriver broke the shell a little bit causing flakes of shell to end up on one of the oysters. Now that I’ve shucked my own oysters, I’ll probably need to get an oyster knife.
Before reading Robb Walsh’s “Sex, Death and Oysters”, I hadn’t eaten a raw oyster in my home. I really hadn’t eaten many oysters unless the cook had battered and fried them. The best raw oysters I ever had were at L’Os a Moelle in Paris, but let’s just say I’m not flying to France to get oysters. Growing up as a kid, I remember seeing the raw, quivering oysters without food coloring, a straw, or a logo saying “Jack in the Box” and thinking, it wasn’t for me.
Robb Walsh writes so enthusiastically about oysters, I couldn’t resist the desire to experience them in all their glory. Throughout his book he exposes the marketing hype around oysters and encourages the reader to see oysters as exquisitely ordinary food fit for the kitchen table–with a glass of beer or a glass of wine. On his website, he has one of the most amazing collection of photos of oysters. After reading his book, I decided to look differently at oysters, take on the task of shucking an oyster myself, and listen to Robb’s advice. Once I tasted fresh oysters simply garnished with lemon, I was hooked. Why I waited so long I’ll never know.