Oysters, and oystahs!!

By Jillian Bernardini - Jul 15, 2011 - 05:15 PM
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My first oyster experience was in the summer of 2010, while working at a seafood restaurant overlooking the New Jersey coastline.  It was one of my final shifts before moving up to Boston, and I thought, what better moment for me to try these slimy-looking entities that are such a mystery.  I've seen people order them by the dozens, all different kinds, and slurp 'em down without even taking a quick second to taste their potential complexity.

Some people prefer the bigger oysters, some enjoy the smaller ones more, and others simply douse them with hot sauces and lemon to better facilitate the oysters' journey down one's throat.  No judgment of course!  However, I prefer mine au natural, naked, and super briney.  The saltier, the better, which is why I'm pretty fortunate to live in a city that boasts some of the best, crisp oysters in the country.

If you've never had an oyster, you must try them once in your life!  Just because they are alive when you eat them shouldn't scare you.  And just because they are a well-known aphrodisiac, you shouldn't expect to feel all titillated after having 30 of them.  As Mark Kurlansky wrote in The Big Oyster, "Oysters taste like eating the sea."  They are incredibly crisp and refreshing, and if you can get past the uniqueness of their texture, giving them a few chews can release even more complex flavors.

What's amazing about oysters is that they truly develop a sense of terroir, or 'merroir' in their case, meaning that where an oyster grows can taste of the waters from where it was harvested.  An oyster grown in a bay on the west coast will taste completely different from an oyster grown on the south side of Cape Cod.  That depends on how much plankton [an oyster's diet] is in the water and also the tides that bring in varying levels of freshwater and salt water to an oyster farm.

Island Creek Oyster Bar
Peter's Point
Cognac Bistro, a medley of east coast oysters
After working at an oyster bar for the past couple of months, I'm sure you can tell that this becomes a pretty addictive hobby.  "Ostreiculture," some say, is the culture and study of oysters.  There are wonderful books and memoirs available solely on oysters.  Rowan Jacobsen has traveled the world seeking out the best oysters, and he can even guide you into which type of oysters you'd enjoy by grouping them into different flavor profiles and categories!
My only advice is sincere, but don't knock it until you try it.  If you grew up by the ocean, then you can definitely appreciate oysters for their crisp salty water flavor.  A few of my favorites are Pepperell Coves [P.E.I. oyster], Island Creeks [Duxbury Bay, MA], and Wellfleets [from the Cape!].
I'll leave you with a beautiful photo of Duxbury Bay, where the Island Creek oysters are grown year round, and some more frequent posts as well, I promise!  Thanks for reading!