Today I picked up a magazine with advice about food for two for New Years Eve. One of the things, the author of that article thought, should be part of a dinner for two, are oysters. It made me think of something that happened many years ago, while I travelled through France with my high school sweetheart.
We had both taken a sabbatical year after high school to make some money and be able to see a little of Europe. We had decided to go to France in late summer and pick grapes and learn some more French at the same time.
We entered France from Luxembourg and drove to Paris through Reims and many small cities and villages, and after Paris we drove to see the beautiful Ussé castle just outside Paris and many more villages all the way to Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a very beautiful and clean city and we stayed there for a while, before we drove on to the Atlantic, to an area of which I don’t remember the name. It was wonderful, with forests of pine trees and thousands of cicada singing, when it was dark. And the beach, oh my…
Back then oysters were not something you could buy in supermarkets in Denmark, and none of us had ever had any, so when we found out that this was an oyster area, we had to try some.
In a village at the ocean there was a market, where men were standing with buckets full of oysters in different sizes, and when we asked for their advice about how to eat oysters, they told us which oysters to take and how to open the shell, how to scrape the oyster out of the shell, drizzle it with some lemon juice and slurp it up. It sounded easy.
We decided that oysters would be our dinner that day and bought a dozen each, went on to buy some good French bread and wine and returned to our camping place.
It took us a while to find out how to open the oysters, but then we scraped them and drizzled them like real pros, and my boyfriend Torben enjoyed eating the oysters very much. I on the other hand had a problem. The “meat” of a raw oyster looks like snot, and I wasn’t able to abstract from that.
I tried, I really did. I put that first oyster up to my lips at least 50 times, and every time the oyster touched my lips it gave me the shivers and I had to put it down again.
By the time Torben had almost eaten all his oysters, I was still working on the first, and when I finally forced myself to eat that first one, it was a disappointment. It didn’t taste of anything else than salty water and lime! So I graciously gave the rest of my oysters to Torben and just enjoyed some bread and wine.
All this opening and scraping and drizzling and slurping took quite a long time, and by the time Torben had finished the last oyster, the candles had burned down and it was time to go to bed.
Torben liked to talk, and normally he talked a lot, but this night something was off. He was unusually quiet.
After we went into our sleeping bags and turned out the light, it was quiet for a long time and I’d almost fallen asleep, when I heard his voice:
“I’m thinking about…”
“You know, before we opened the oysters, they were still alive, right?”
“I hope so.”
“You know, when I’m thinking about that, it’s like the oysters are crawling back up again. Then I swallow them again and they crawl back up again.”
I had only had that one oyster, but now Torben mentioned it, it felt exactly like it was crawling up again, and for the rest of that night we kept swallowing our oysters over and over again.
Torben and I split a few years later and we haven’t been in contact a lot since, but I doubt it very much that he has ever eaten oysters again. And I know that I haven’t and don’t feel an urge to try oysters again. Like ever!
I wish you all a very happy new year 2014!