Ode to the humble oyster

Thursday night Ada and I tried to grab some delicious seafood poboys from the newly opened Blue Water Seafood Co.  Their new location is just down the street and word is they do a sandwich justice.  We were disappointed to learn that they close the kitchen at 4 so as not to ruffle the feathers of the local restaurants they supply fish to.  But I never go to other seafood restaurants.  I haven’t mmmm… tested their waters because of their high prices and on the principle that seafood should be eaten by the sea.  This principle is based on stubbornness, not any high minded green or eat local ideals.  It just seems wrong to go to a place called the lobster pot or fishermans bay when the nearest lobsters or bays are hundreds of miles away.

I was ready and willing to bend and break my principles for you, Blue Water Seafood.  There are plenty of blue waters within bicycling distance.  You were going to be my one seafood refuge in the mountains.  But you won’t cook me dinner.  I’ll have to settle for lunch- which will make your shrimp po-boys all the more precious.  It’s the 12 Bones stratagem.  Prepare really excellent food, served only at limited times.

Raw things were still available until 7, so I bought a dozen Mal Paque oysters, all the way from Prince Edwards Island in Canadia,  and a unit of trout dip.  Trout dip is not a locally made tobacco product.  It is delicious on crackers.  Dip is something delicious tucked inside the lip of a cracker.  Bad tangent.  Apologies.

Yesterday I had the oysters for lunch.  I was too cheap to buy the shucking knife so after testing various implements sharp and dull I chose the humble tea spoon as the most effective opening device.  Still, I could only crack open a half dozen.  It was so satisfying to be sitting on my back deck in the highlands and feel that tiny release as the seal gave and a few drops of briny juice escaped.  I liberally applied hot sauce and inhaled the juice of the first oyster a bit too vigorously.  The salty heat hit the  back of my throat and I got an immediate sea/spice high.  Maybe I’ve discovered the natural version of shoplifting huffs of whip cream propellants from the dairy section.

I calmed down a bit and was struck with the immediate realization that I could not get through another oyster without a delicious cold beer chaser.  I’ve been to wine pairings at fine restaurants where succulent dishes were painstakingly prepared for my pleasure, only to be sublimely enhanced by just the right wine.  Nothing compares to the potency of a living oyster in its juices followed by cold cheap beer.  It’ll knock your britches off.

So lunch was fine and I still have the half dozen oysters challenging me to find the appropriate technology to reduce them to edible half shells.  I like that my oysters were from Canadia, just like the ancestors of the cajuns in south Louisiana where oysters are not as highly esteemed as crawfish, but still beloved.  I like to think of all those valiant filter feeders at work cleaning the poison out of the gulf.  I hate to think about all the folks who are suffering because that poison has rendered their catch suspect.  Godspeed little oysters, do your work and stay alive.

My back deck now reeks of dumpster since I forgot to clean up my plate of clear oyster juice.  How can something that tastes so invigorating, so clean and briny and satisfying, become toxic waste so quickly?  Because it’s alive.  It’s vital and temporary.  I wish I could develop this thought into something more profound but too much of my brain is distracted by the puzzle of how to get those other oysters open.  Buy a $10 oyster knife?  NEVER!


13 responses to “Ode to the humble oyster

  1. Michael, I need a dictionary to read the blog…..I have to think and I don’t want to do that when I’ m trying to read a blog…..I want to smile,laugh, but not trying to desencript what you’re writing…….Open those oysters fast or youre going to end up in the hospital……Suegra reganona……besos……..

    • Dearest Suegra, I would write for you in your beautiful first language but, alas, I am pathetically illiterate in it. It’s taken me 10 years away from the study of literature to write this unencryptedly. Maybe in another ten I’ll mellow to your satisfaction!

  2. Ten bucks is a small price to pay for heady pleasure. Cough it up. Or, if you persist, put the bivalves on the grill until they pop open a bit then slather them with butter, garlic, and parmesan cheese. Wash them down with a brew or two.

    You’re welcome.

  3. Holy Acme Oyster Bar, …”oysters not as highly esteemed as crawfish”…say it ain’t so, son. P & J oysters forever!

    The frau and I are driving down to NO tomorrow to the Quarter for a memorial service at St. Louis Cathedral (Law School classmate from Bunkie, LA) about 3 pm to be followed by a jazz procession to some bar or restaurant…..and we’ll down a dozen or so of the slimy, slaty critters just to make sure that they are still a notch above mud bugs…What did in most of the killed ones was not toxic goo from the spill…but plain ole h20 from the Mississippi. Not enough salt content to make them happy…or able to live. It’ll take about 4 years for the beds to be reseeded and then for them to reach harvest size….too bad…..but there is no shortage of mud bugs…they are even talking about a year round variety known as a “shrimp crawfish”…..What is it…a shrimp or a crawfish. Actually it looks like a whimp crawfish with weak, thin claws that could hardly raise a scratch if one gotta hold of your pinky.

    I have a spare oyster knife…I think, along with a spare shingle if you can wait a few months…and I can remember to pack it. Old and inferior maybe for you, new and improved for me….wooden handle vs white, sanitary plastic handle is all I see.

  4. In the mean time. Nail 2 X 4’s to form a 90 degree slot and use a dull chisel, small hammer and a welder’s glove…suitable for washing or throwing away…as per the two day “dead armadillo on the side of the road” smell from rotting seafood slime.

    • thanks for the tip! I just found an old welding glove that used to belong to somebody named “Snake.” Either that or somebody named the glove Snake.

      • Hey!!! That’s my glove. It fell out of my car when I was there last winter. Snake is neither the name of the owner nor the glove. It’s the title of the chore that the glove is used for. That’s the only clue you get.

  5. Michael,

    I finally figured out the concept of crawfish being more popular, in your experience, than oysters…..We ate way more crawfish (from early spring until just after Easter) in Cenla than we ever ate oysters. And the reason is…..there are few places to eat oysters on the half shell 100 miles from the Gulf.

    We did go by Acme Oyster House and there was a line about half a block long outside while across the street at Felix’s there not only was no line but no folks at the oyster bar. There is a message here. Either eating at Felix’s will result in your driving the porcelain bus and wishing to just die and get it over with….the presence of a line compels folks to get in it. I mean oysters on the half shell all come from P & J’s in New Orleans…if they are from the near by Gulf.

    We did sample 6 raw and 6 grilled at a newer place across from the Royal Orleans….small but good.

    I took pictures and if I knew how to attach them, I’d post one.


    • I don’t know how to post photos on other peoples’ blogs either. The best I can come up with is posting a link to photos you’ve uploaded to a free photo site like Google’s Picasa.

      I based my statement about the primacy of crawfish on the universal obsession the Cajun men who worked tending Mimi’s property had with them, as well as our own obligatory crawfish bonanzas to celebrate anything and everything. I’m sure the local coonass obsession was based on collecting crawfish and thus cash from the big party throwers. Still, it couldn’t have been that much cash and those guys were REALLY into their traps.

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