The Truth About Oysters — The Bivalve That Will Feed Us While Saving The Planet

Life Writer
09.03.16 6 Comments

It all started in the summer of 1985. I was staying on an island off the coast of British Columbia with my parents and grandparents. It was a shockingly beautiful place — a winding circuit of inky black fjords. Bald eagles perched atop old growth pines, waiting for the perfect salmon to snatch out of the water. The cliffs tumbled into the sea where they gave birth to walls of dank seaweed, rife with shellfish, for the waves to bash against night and day. Not a bad place to be five.

That summer my grandfather talked me into eating something I’d never tasted before, an oyster. On the south side of the island he’d found a beach that was one huge oyster garden. We each grabbed a bucket, filling them in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t lift mine, so my grandfather carried a bucket in each hand as he led the way back to the house.

The next day, beside the fire pit, I learned how to shuck an oyster. Next, they went into a pale red cocktail sauce my grandma had whipped up earlier. Then my grandfather threw a few onto the old oven grate that was propped up over the fire. He instructed me to watch them carefully and yell when the top valve of each oyster rose, releasing a bit of steam. I shouted that they were opening and my grandfather came over and plopped them all on a plate and quickly applied some garlic butter and a fresh squeeze of lemon. Lunch was served.

I boldly shook my head when my grandfather held out a tiny fork and insisted I try one. They looked like pale slugs, which no five-year-old is going to be stoked on eating. But the old man was having none of that sh*t. I still remember him saying, “You have to try everything twice! Once to know what it tastes like. And again in case the chef screwed it up the first time!” I closed my eyes, held my nose, and slurped a little oyster into my mouth. It was salty, briny, buttery, spicy, and gooey. The gooey bit threw me, as it does for so many.

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