Wednesday 17 April 2013

O is for Oyster ...

Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) is quoted as having said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”, but signs of oyster consumption go back into prehistory, evidenced by oyster middens found worldwide.

Oysters on a bed of ice, served with lemon and

Those Roman invaders knew of at least two of our native oyster beds found in Kent and Essex: Whitstable Oysters and Colchester Natives ...

Whitstable Oyster Festival

The Romans and Greeks were well known for the consumption of excessive numbers of these sea animals, and went to great lengths and expense to have them readily available for their emperors.

In the late 1700s and into the 19th century oysters were cheap and mainly eaten by the working class ... as the beds became overfished ... they became more and more part of the rich man’s diet ...

Lewis Carroll’s "Jabberwocky" ...

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head –
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat –
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more –
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter ....
        See link below for rest of poem:

Recipe for Oyster Loaves from
Elizabeth Raffald's book (1733-1781):
"The Experienced English Housekeeper"
We shall finish off with the Walrus and Carpenter’s recipe ...

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and Vinegar besides
Are very good indeed –
Now if you’re ready oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

To put oysters into their true context (perhaps?!) ... here is Harold Nicolson’s quote from his 1942 book ‘Food' ... "The man who doesn’t like oysters, the woman who cannot abide sardines.  We know the type.”

That is O for Oyster from Aspects of British Cookery

Jabberwocky - here's the full poem
Elizabeth Raffald - Wiki entry

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Annalisa Crawford said...

I cringe just watching someone else eat oysters... I guess I'm 'that' type. Urgh...

Juliet said...

Hilary, no sooner than I take a little time out from blog visiting, than you have unravelled an impressive set of posts - full of your usual mix of entertaining and colourful facts. This is a mouth-watering series.
Hope you are getting some sun at last.

Jenni Steel said...

Hi Hilary,

I agree with Jusliet your great at coming up with such awesome interesting posts..

Not had a minute to do much blogging as his "Lordship" is home!!!

Keep up the great work. Cheers Jenni

J.L. Murphey said...

I love oysters any way I can get them! But now you have to be so careful, pollution, where they are harvested from.

Lynn said...

I love the oysters that can be found in restaurants in the Florida gulf. Most recently - baked in the half shell in champagne with parmesan cheese on top. Yummmmm.

Elise Fallson said...

I do enjoy a wide variety of foods, but I just can't do raw oysters. I just can't get past the texture. But I do know many people that do enjoy them. (:

Old Kitty said...

Isn't it amazing how these used to be food for poor people!?!? Now it's on par with caviar and champers! Take care

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oysters aren't for me, but many in my family love them! And I love "Jabberwocky." :)

Unknown said...

I also heard that lobster used to be poor mans food or food for prisoners. So much so that they begged to be served anything but lobster.

Unknown said...

I had oysters for the first time recently and LOVED them! What an interesting and entertaining post :)

Jo said...

I love oysters, but I didn't always. My parents would gobble them up, but not me. Then when we went to NC I learned to eat steamed oysters which I would eat by the bushel, from there, I went to fresh oysters, delicious. I do miss Whitstable oysters though, they are wonderful.

Love that recipe, think I will try that.


Theresa Milstein said...

I didn't have an oyster until I was in my 20s. I began to appreciate them more the last few years. I like them on the traditional way, raw and in their own sauce with a little hot sauce, but my favorite is fried, like they do in New Orleans. Oyster po boys are delicious!

I like the Jabberwocky excerpt!

JoJo said...

Even before my shellfish allergy started, I could not choke down a raw oyster!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Great post. Oysters are a bit slimy for me, but plenty like them.

Francene Stanley said...

I'd still like to know how the first man who ever tasted an oyster approached the process. I guess he was starving. Did he cook the slimy mess just in case?
A - Z Challenge

Nick Wilford said...

I've never tried a raw one. I'll stick with having them cooked. I wonder who decided that they were also an aphrodisiac - the Romans probably!

Chatty Crone said...

I know a ton of people like them - but not me - never tried one and I know I won't like them - lol. sandie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Annalisa - seems so .. I do love oysters though - sorry about your non-involvement!

@ Juliet - thanks so much and am delighted you're enjoying the series ... the sun is trying to come out - and when it does it is lovely!!

@ Jenni - thanks so much. I'm glad to read your father is back with you - though I know it adds a lot of work to your pile .. We'll see you when you can get free ..

@ JL - I'd have oysters if they were around .. sadly we do need to be careful .. so I'd choose my place to eat them from ..

@ Lynn - oh ok .. I'll be out to the Florida gulf!! Baked in the half shell with parmesan and champers - sounds excellent .. absolutely yummie!!

@ Elise - it took me a while to enjoy them .. but once hooked - hooked forever! Oh well a few more for us!

@ Old Kitty - the changes of time .. yes - poor man's food to join with caviar and champagne as rich man's food.

@ Elizabeth - we all differ don't we .. but I bet we all love Jabberwocky - had to put some of the poem in ..

@ Clarissa - I hadn't heard that .. but perhaps in the Americas where lobsters are more plentiful - I can understand the request for something different though ..

@ Kellie - another convert .. they are delicious aren't they .. thanks for visiting.

@ Jo - my father loved them .. my mother did when we were in South Africa .. that was where I had lots of my oysters ... Whitstable isn't far away, but far enough to be a pain to drive to!!

@ Theresa - I started eating them round about then too .. I think I've always eaten them raw ... seems a waste to change up the taste - but then I eat them rarely ... I'm sure if I could have oysters everyday .. I'd give fried ones a go ..

@ JoJo - sorry about the shellfish allergy - those are nasty things ... eating my first oyster at about 15 was a little challenging!

@ Teresa - yes .. they are either love it or hate it things aren't they ..

@ Francene - I guess they saw oyster catchers eating them .. and worked out - with their flint tools - they could be opened ..there'd be no worries re pollution back then ... but probably fire hadn't been invented either ... but middens are everywhere .. Australia, South Africa ...

@ Nick - they're not so good cooked - but I expect you're having them in steak and oyster pie?

I expect those peskie Romans decided they were extra good for you .. proven so I believe ..

Cheers everyone - lovely to have your comments, thank you - Hilary

Tina said...

I like ALL seafood EXCEPT oysters. Just can't handle the slime...However, I do love that poem!

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

cleemckenzie said...

I can eat tons of oysters, so they don't like to see me coming! Oysters with champagne? I'm already thinking about dinner.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I have never eaten an oyster in my life. Maybe one of these days I'll be brave enough to :)

MunirGhiasuddin said...

To me Oysters are cute little sea animals. I feel goose bumps when I think about cooking them. My husband laughs because I have no problem cooking shrimp. LOL

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

That was fun!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Hilary. Sorry I haven't been around for awhile. I enjoyed reading your post on oysters.

Amanda Trought said...

I never liked the look of oysters, but willing to give them a try, especially after reading your post. Blessings, Amanda

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

This is an interesting post.
I love all sea foods
Good to know about this,
a rare item in our place
I mean a costly affair LOL
Best Regards

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry, I've never liked oysters. Too slimy.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm with the others, I'm afraid. Oysters, oooh. LOL.

Rhonda Albom said...

Interesting info, but I am not an oyster fan. Sorry.


Trisha said...

Not a fan of oysters at all. Yech.

Chuck said...

Also not am oyster fan. Looks like snot on the half-shell.

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Maria said...

Now being from Dublin Hilary, I should be mad about seafood, but it ain't necessarily so. I went for a beachwalk with some grown up friends when I was about four and we picked cockles, mussels and winkles from the beach. Then we adjourned to the house and everyone - except a horrified me - feasted on these creatures, having extracted them from their shells. Yes, after cooking them of course. I'm partial to a bit of well cooked cod, but shellfish leave me cold. Oysters indeed. I wouldn't be attracted to them at all.

Maria's Book Blog

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sandie .. oh dear!

@ Tina - and another off the Oysters .. well at least the poem is good!

@ Lee - oh wonderful you love oysters .. yes oysters and champagne = a very good meal.

@ Keith - I can understand .. they are different - but worth a go sometime?

@ Munir - we eat them raw .. no need to cook! Shrimp is delicious too ..

@ Melissa - thank you .. you're probably eating these regularly down on the Florida gulf ..

@ Susanne - no worries .. I'm way behind. Glad you enjoyed the read .. and appreciate you coming by ..

@ Amanda - oh well that's good to hear .. and I do hope you enjoy them - let me know!

@ Phil - thanks for coming by again .. and that's excellent you love all seafoods ... I expect oysters are rare in India (I hope that's right) .. and they can be costly .. but delicious too

@ Alex @ Joylene @ Rhonda @ Trisha @ Chuck ... sorry to read that you're all non-oyster fans and Chuck I'll try and forget your descriptive comment!!

@ Maria - lovely to see you and thank you for coming by. Coming from Dublin - you were/are certainly in the right place for a lovely plate of shellfish ..

Your adults - sound excellent folk! Educating you early .. except they didn't know your genes - and that lack of interest in shellfish!! Gorgeous description you've given us .. reminds of a time with my father when we picked off cockles and winkles off Bexhill rocks ...

Thanks everyone .. oysters weren't that popular, but the poem crept in and saved the day! Cheers Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

I am also not a fan of oysters,though I do like some of the sauces. Wonderful poem!


Laura Eno said...

I love most seafood but have never liked oysters...or sardines. Wonder what that says about me?

Lisa said...

Well, I must be "the type" since I don't eat either one!!! Isn't it funny how because something becomes "rare" or is perceived to be rare, it therefore becomes precious.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - the poem makes the post .. I love it - oysters don't suit everyone ..

@ Laura - it's each of us to his/her own isn't it .. I love both! I really got hooked on fresh sardines in South Africa ..

@ Lisa - sorry about "the type" .. I just loved Harold Nicolson's sarcastic opinion - so had to put it in ..

Yes our population increases and we over do things .. so rare becomes a precious resource ..

Thanks to you all .. cheers Hilary