Tonight, I ate my first raw oyster (expect for that appalling attempt during my childhood, which I am acknowledging but not counting).
As a moderately adventurous eater, it’s been my semi-secret shame that, unlike many of my friends and relatives, I don’t rhapsodize over a plate of fresh, raw oysters; while others gleefully gulp them down, I sit there quietly, telling myself that I need to wait until just the right moment, which never seemed to be in sight….until finally, it was.
Tonight was the night.
Here’s what I needed to take the plunge:
- Mixed company: two friends, one who loves the oysters, another who doesn’t
- The back room of the Bubbly Mermaid and Oyster Bar
- More than one glass of bubbly
- Generally hilarity
- A dark, cozy, comforting atmosphere
- People who know wayyyyyy more than me about all things oysters
And so, hardly thinking about it, I ate a raw oyster.
And liked it.
It was the first of many, some raw, more cooked (see above: an indescribable combination of oyster, bourbon, bacon, and who know what else – SET ON FIRE. So so good), washed down with chilled champagne. Truly delicious, and all the better for sharing it with good friends who kept me from thinking too much about the ensuing oyster swallow.*
This poem, by Seamus Heaney, is one of my all time favorites and played no small part in me wanting to experience an oyster:
Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.
Alive and violated,
They lay on their bed of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.
We had driven to that coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool of thatch and crockery.
Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south to Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege
And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
Leaning in from sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.
I loved the tang and the salt and although I didn’t taste starlight or the glut of privilege, I felt very close to the sea. These certainly will not be the last oysters that I enjoy.
* Note to self: if obsessing about something, invite Colleen and Renee for drinks. It will be too much fun to think about anything else.