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I grew up here.
What I lovingly call The Flat, but most people call Saskatchewan. Not an ocean to be seen for a long long long long ways. This accident of geography meant that oysters and I didn’t make an acquaintance until I moved to the west coast. Oh, sure, I had some passing familiarity with them – my mom liked to serve tins of smoked oysters on special occasions, and in grade 5 I won an oratory competition by memorizing “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll one stanza of which is:
“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”
…If you don’t know the poem, go have a read. It doesn’t turn out well for the oysters! (this by the way, I can still recite, which is a fun party trick!).
So I was a late bloomer, on the oyster front. But I think that I really made up for lost time when I finally got a chance to explore these briny tender little morsels. A few years back I was invited to a birthday party on Denman Island, in a little cabin on the sea shore. Denman Island is in/just across from Fanny Bay – home of the world famous Fanny Bay Oysters. The beach in front of our little remote cabin was covered by oysters. So in the March drizzle, we put on our rain slickers, put a shucking knife, lemon and tobassco in our pockets, and marched out to the beach. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, when my friend identified a half dozen enormous oysters and sat down on a log to shuck them. Would they be slimy? Would they smell like fish? Would they make me gag?
I couldn’t have been more wrong, in my fears about oysters. Cue angle choir. Cue mind-being-changed-in-an-instant. Cue a love affair with oysters which I hope will never stop. These oysters were a wonder to me – salty and sweet, firm, with a pleasant fresh/melon finish. I ate another and another. I was in love.
I’ve since had the opportunity to try oysters all sorts of ways. In the bottom of a shooter. Fried as a burger. On salads. But I’ve learned that I don’t particularly care for cooked oysters–for me all of the wonder and delight to eating an oyster can be found when they are on the half shell.
PS – I’ve said it before, but will repeat for good measure: If you’re in Victoria, and want to try some excellent oysters on the shell, head down to The Oyster Bar. They will sort you out. Rumon, Janelle and I went there to mark today’s special special occasion…