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Friday, 15 March 2013


By Johna Ferguson

When I bring up my most memorable pleasure I am sure it is one you certainly wouldn’t agree with. Maybe your most pleasurable remembrance is some special family gathering or that glorious first date with your husband or maybe just getting your first pet and holding it close to your heart.

Well, yes, I have lots of those wonderful past ones but the one that stands out most in my mind is eating fresh oysters on the half-shell in a small Paris café in 1980.

Oysters have special meaning to me since for the first 40 years of my life, every summer we lived on an oyster farm my uncle ran. In the 1930s times were hard and we had oysters at least three times a week for dinner.

Granted, it was always in the summer months when the oysters were spawning and really weren’t plump and like the hardened winter ones but they were still tasty and a good source of needed protein for growing children.

But if we wanted to eat raw ones, we had to go and gather them when the tide was really low, about six times each summer, for the water was much colder the farther out one went. If not served on the half-shell then they were fried or made into oyster stew.

Oysters are something I guess most people have to get used to. I remember after I was married, I offered my new husband one I opened with an oyster knife right there on the beach. I teased him into trying it and he made a terrible face, picked it up and swallowed it whole. But of course it came right back up.

He vowed to never eat them again but over the years, he became accustomed to them and ended up actually even liking them raw with just a dash of lemon juice.

Oysters are a little like fish as they are filter feeders, drawing water in over their gills. An oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day so they help keep bays clean and clear.

They have a three-chamber heart and two kidneys. They often have both sexes so technically a female could fertilize her own eggs. When the eggs are let loose, millions of them, they become larvae (spat) and after swimming a few days, settle down on the ground. Once there they can never move.

Now opening an oyster shell is not an easy project unless you use an oyster knife which has a sharp blade on both sides with a pointed end, is about two-and-one-half inches long and is connected to a wooden handle like the knobs on gear shift levers of old model cars.

This knife you must insert in a certain place and cut the strong muscle that holds the shell together and viola, there in its juices lays a tasty morsel just waiting for you to try.

Now you don’t have to go to Paris to try one, but the ambiance there is beyond comparison to having one while sitting on the beach. But I guarantee you the taste is the same wonderful flavor for those of us who treasure them.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I used to think my mother was weird for eating raw oysters, frog legs and squirel, that is, until I grew up and started traveling the world. I ate "escargot" (snails in the shell) in Paris. I was offered "balut" in the Philippines (a boiled duck egg in the shell, a day before hatching, with its little body fully formed). While living on Guam a friend tried to tempt me to eat one of the island' favorite delicasy,"fruit bat". I had to excuse myself from the table.

Thank you, Johna, for this story. I remember sitting on a porch at Seabeck, dining on fried oysters, gathered by our friend from the area in front of their summer place. You brought it all back.

I never had the pleasure or something of eating raw oysters, but we grew up eating "rocky mountain oysters." When I learned what they really were, I no longer had an appetite for them. Thanks for bringing back my memories!

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