Forgo the fork. Pick up the cold, damp, wet, rough shell. As if your fingertips had taste buds, your salivary glands perk up in anticipation. You are already starting to taste the oyster. As you lift the oyster to your mouth, pause momentarily to breathe in the fresh clean smell of the sea.
Tilt your head back; close your eyes; slurp in the oyster and its juices. If the oyster has been iced down before opening and is minutes or less off the shucking knife, the oyster is as cold and vibrant as an icy gust of wind at a winter's low tide. Before concentrating on the taste, experience the sensation that M. F. K. Fisher, the doyenne of oyster poets, referred adoringly to as the oyster's "strange, cold succulence" and what novelist Tom Robbins likens to "French-kissing a mermaid."
Carefully chewing the oyster, your palate becomes inundated with a variety of distinct tastes that come in succession. If the oyster is well fed, plump, and firm, the first taste is sweetness from the glycogen, which the warmth of your mouth is already breaking down into sugars. The sweet taste dissipates quickly; then comes a succession of brine, various mineral, algal and other mollusk flavors on the tip, sides and finally on the back of your tongue and the soft palate in the back of your mouth. Each oyster has a unique line-up of flavors. The most intriguing, the most difficult to describe and the most important taste when it comes to combining a wine or ale, is the aftertaste or finish---those flavors that linger after the oyster is swallowed. The aftertaste of an oyster is part sensation--an enlivening of the tongue, cheeks and roof of the mouth.
Wash down the oyster and invigorate the mouth with a brisk, dry, clean-finishing white wine or a malty porter or stout. A bite of a crusty light rye bread, like the French pain de seigle, to neutralize the taste buds, and then on to the next oyster.
Whether eaten with a new friend, before a business venture, a romance, a meal, a marriage, a new year...think of oysters as a beginning, a prelude to a wonderful experience about to happen..
Written by Jon Rowley b. 1943. d. 2017
By Bobby Lax: Tofino, British Columbia
They are not for everyone. Oysters are slimy, awkwardly chewy, salty, creamy during spawning and if eaten raw, pretty much still alive.
If you have ever had a bad one you probably would have immediately spit it out hoping to never experience such a blitzkrieg on your senses again.
If oysters are for you though, their consumption alone is cause for celebration. Your mouth will rejoice in their delicacy and brininess.
This is followed by the body buzz only an oyster so naturally provides. Life is richer when they are near.(more)
During a memorable summer in Agde, in the South of France, I lost my virginity and ate my first oyster. One experience left me feeling mysteriously adult, sensually alive in a way I never had before, full of the promise of the future. The other involved a tent and a Dutch bloke who worked in a record shop in Rotterdam. Perhaps it was no accident that the two events coincided, since the association between oysters and sex has been so hackneyed as to become an embarrassing cliché.
A friend tells me he cringes when ordering them on a date as it seems shamingly obvious, but since the cliche exists it seems best to get it over with briskly (rather like losing one's virginity).(more)