Colorado has four borders, none of which are oceans. I grew up in a small town in the middle of that Rocky Mountainous rectangle as a vegetarian/occasional pescatarian where I was more familiar with snowy half-pipes than half shells. The only seafood in my diet came courtesy an occasional frozen filet of rainbow trout from the Schwan’s truck (holla, orange sherbet push pops!). My first oyster, as far as I can recall, was likely a big, soft Texas Gulf oyster choked down in Fort Worth during a shift at a perennially packed Cajun seafood restaurant where I worked during college — not a highly memorable nor positive experience. Texans tend to dump the ocean water out of raw oysters and load them up with grated horseradish and boatloads of cocktail sauce. Sacrilege! But, but! That’s what you do when the regional oysters are large and largely lacking in salinity.
Now that I’ve been on the East Coast for a few years, my palate and appreciation for all manner of molluscs is a bit more developed. It should be; I sell them and therefore need to describe them with enthusiasm and great detail. One way to expedite the learning curve is to slurp your way through 30+ different types of Western Hemisphere oysters at the glorious $1 oyster happy hour at Maison Premiere in Williamsburg (4 to 7 p.m. M-F).
Thanks to having met the ubiquitous Boston ‘oyster dude,’ I’ve been contemplating the concept of merroir, the process of how these gnarly little guys get from the mud to the table and why this former street food now sells for about $3 per half shell.
Oysters used to be plentiful in New York, back before pollution and overzealous harvesting killed off the once enormous oyster beds surrounding Manhattan. Long gone are the days when oyster shell mounds called middens littered the streets. For more info, peep this fascinating New York Public Library history lesson.
Now they’re sustainably farmed in places like Duxbury, Mass., and shipped to the finest restaurants in New Yawk City.
I’ve milked a cow, and a goat, and dug through maggot-filled recycling bins for the sake of full journalistic immersion for a story, but never have I left my MacBook behind for good. Writer Erin Byers Murray quit her job as editor of DailyCandy Boston, worked at Island Creek for 18 months and then wrote a book about it. Someone buy this girl a glass of Muscadet! Beware: you’ll want to ditch your desk job too after reading her story.
Excellent company, charming and informative oyster shuckers and an intoxicating and transportive taste of the Atlantic via a few “naked” oysters (i.e. no lemon juice, no condiments) proved irresistible. Cue the resurgence of my interest in oysters. Even the younger vegetarian version of myself could and should have been eating them all along, at least according to Christopher Cox’s argument in this smart Slate.com piece about why even strict vegans should feel comfortable eating oysters. Oh and good news, landlocked Coloradoans: Island Creek ships to any U.S. address.
Cheers to discovering you love something that you had previously dismissed.