Smoked, Slippery and Slimy

Let’s talk about oysters. All of a sudden and for no fathomable reason, I seem to see them everywhere. They were exulted in my recent library find, Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet where I learned which ones were eaten by the upper crust and which species people were forced to contend with during WWII. Lately, I can’t resist cracking open a tin each week of slippery, oily, little smoked oysters, pried away from each other with a toothpick and eaten with Raincoast Crisp crackers (arguably the best crackers on the planet earth and inexcusably unavailable in the US) before supper. With a bottle of chilled prosecco, that could be supper.

I can never visit the Saturday market at the Ferry Building without making a stop for second breakfast at the oyster table in front of the fish market. There’s a kid there shucking them fresh for a dollar which we slurp up bare naked [the oysters] as we stand dodging the market crowds; they a protein blast of energy. When combined with a few heavy shots of Blue Bottle espresso, there’s no sleep ’till Brooklyn.

And now I’m craving the tiny, juicy ones they serve fresh during happy hour at Eos, the wine bar down the street. We order them by the half dozen and they arrive at our table creamy and wobbling in their liquor, perched atop a pot-full of crushed ice. These are irresistable with the sauce they provide on the side: a shallot-flecked vinaigrette that is the only thing I will deign to dress them with. These must be consumed with a martini, mainly because the martinis are also a part of happy hour but also because of the delicious contrast of slurping from a shell in one hand and from a martini glass in the other.

And now, flipping back through some food photos from FEBRUARY, I found this one of Pickled Oysters with English Cucumber “Capellini” and Dill, a gem from the French Laundry Cookbook. The capellini in this case, are thin strands of cucumber, which, I gather, would normally be pasta.


This was so long ago, I can’t quite recall the flavour. They look salty with caviar, perhaps a bit sweet from the pickling. I remember shucking them though, my first ever attempt at doing so. Ahhh, now I remember, that was what twisted the tip of the paring knife into a snarly tangle. I thought I remembered prying open something…. The first one was terrifying, convinced as I was that the knife would slip and slice violently through the kitchen towel wadded around my left hand and lop of a finger. The second was aggravating. The rest, as I recall, seemed to get easier. I read a Canadian saying once, a simile for a difficult task which seems, now, funnier and very concise: “…like trying to open an oyster with a bus ticket.”

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