Menu Roulette

Many years ago, while touring France, my husband and I found ourselves in one of those fabulous restaurants that just make you giddy with anticipation and relief after a long day of touring cathedrals of a different sort.  The hushed atmosphere, all candles and crisp linen was as soft as a sigh. 

The menu arrived, and in a moment of reckless abandon, buoyed by the heady atmosphere and perhaps an aperitif or two, we decided not to read the menu at all, but simply to point at an item randomly, and be surprised by what arrived.  

When the sleek waiter arrived, silently, we were assured by his murmurs of approval that our selections were bang on genius.  He then asked what wine we would like to accompany these brilliant selections.  We, of course, hadn't any idea since we didn't know what we had ordered. We asked him to choose for us.  But of course.  He was only too delighted to do so. 

I don't remember the wine, but I do remember the look on my husband's face when the platter of oysters arrived, nestled in their shells, resting on a bed of crushed ice, on a great footed silver platter, and radiating that recently shucked glow so familiar to aficionados. Oh my! 

The look on his face, however, was not one of delight. 

"I can eat just about any food.  Hell, I've eaten muskrat!  But one thing I absolutely cannot abide is raw oysters," he said, eyeing the beautifully layered rabbit terrine that I was about to tuck into. 

"I don't know if I like them or not," I said. "I've never tried them". 

He was doubtful, obviously not holding out much hope that embarrassment could be averted.  "You are more than welcome to try these". 

And so began my love affair with oysters.  And so continued my love affair with the grateful man who enjoyed a lovely rabbit terrine on that memorable day long ago in France. 

Oysters on the half shell:

Shucking shortcut :

"First, get yourself an old timey can opener with the sharp tri-pointed end that was used to pierce open juice cans. Hold the oyster against a hard surface and insert the pointed end of the opener into the closed edge of the oyster - the hinge. Make sure it's pointed up and let gravity work for you. The oyster should give without a problem - but if it doesn't, insert into the other side. It may take a few times to get the feel of it but I can shuck a dozen oysters in 30 seconds without a knick, scrape or cut."

When you serve oysters, if you've a mind to, it is nice to offer a few enhancing garnishes, such as shallots chopped fine dressed with red wine vinegar, or simply a few drops of vodka and a splash of Tabasco.

My stepdaughter (who fortunately did not inherit her father's aversion to oysters) and I, seldom get them that far. Shucking and slurping oysters over the kitchen sink is the traditional method of consumption for us. 

"Rare is the culture that doesn’t love oysters. They are everywhere. But they’re also decidedly Somewhere: within its singular shell, each oyster carries its provenance like a fingerprint. Knocking one back is like mainlining the cove it came from".  — Peter Jon Lindberg

Recommended reading:

Consider the Oyster, 

by MFK Fisher

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