Growling months: why?

Surely everyone has heard that there is a rule: it is safe to eat oysters only in those months, in the name of which there is the letter “P”. It all started back in ancient Rome, when people began to notice that in the summer, oysters brought from the Atlantic coast can be easily poisoned. We decided that the molluscs were becoming poisonous. And even Cicero in the 1st century BC, in a treatise dedicated to oysters, reflected on the dangers of this food in the hot months and the introduction of the R-taboo.

In fact, the oysters were not to blame. The Romans simply could not provide the necessary conditions for the transportation of seafood in the heat, because the shells are comfortable to travel at a temperature of + 1 + 4. Oysters spoiled on the road and became a health hazard.

Photo: Sweet Ice Cream Photography |

The fact is that in summer many mollusks have a breeding season, a signal for which is the heating water. The water has warmed – oysters begin to spawn, become “milky”, bitter, lose the elasticity of meat. Previously, however, this did not stop anyone, they ate oysters all year round. And this led in the 18th century to such a decrease in the population of shellfish off the coast of France and on the East coast of America that the authorities of these countries had to legally prohibit the collection of oysters during their breeding season, establishing huge fines for those who tried to trade in the delicacy from May 1 to September 1 …

Photo: Jessica To'oto'o |

Photo: Jessica To’oto’o |

Eat oysters any time of the year!

In the 21st century, you should not show “ancient Roman” anxiety. Thanks to advances in technology, suppliers ensure fast, gentle transport and storage at the best oyster temperature. And they can even bring shellfish from New Zealand to Moscow. They have, by the way, in the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true and the peak oyster season falls just in our summer months.

And in the Northern Hemisphere, farmers have figured out how to produce an all-season oyster. It is sterile, never “milky” and tastes good at any time of the year. While ordinary oysters have a “milk” vacation, restaurants and shops are supplied with 4 seasons oysters.

And do not be afraid if suddenly you still come across a “milk”. Oyster milk is not poisonous.

The main rule to really remember is, don’t even try an oyster that looks and smells bad. A fresh oyster should exude a pleasant smell of the sea, be shiny and full-bodied, contain a colorless transparent juice – “oyster liqueur”. And eat oysters in trusted places where professionals are responsible for quality.

Photo: Evieanna Santiago |

Photo: Evieanna Santiago |

What and how it is: an oyster fork in the studio!

An oyster fork is a special cutlery. Usually it is a little more than 10 cm long. As a rule, it is a fork with three prongs.

In the classic version, the leftmost tooth of the oyster fork is noticeably wider, it is designed to neatly separate the oyster pulp from the shell wall. In antique shops you can find old left-handed oyster forks. They are custom made and have a wide right tooth. The French, in order not to get confused in right-handers and left-handers, came up with oyster forks, which have wide teeth on both sides. This shape is most often found in restaurants. Disposable two-pronged wooden forks can be used for convenience at buffets or outdoor events.

The peak of fashion for oyster forks came in the Belle Epoque, a period of European history from the last decades of the 19th century to the First World War. At this time, it was simply impossible to eat an oyster without an oyster fork in decent society. The British introduced such a rule at the end of the 18th century. It was they who invented the oyster forks. However, as well as forks for shrimp, ice cream, salad, strawberries and much more.

Oscar Wilde has a wonderful phrase: “The world was my oyster, and I took the wrong fork.” In order not to get into a mess at the table, it is enough to remember: the oyster fork, unlike all others, is located to the right of the plate.

Photo: chuttersnap |

Photo: chuttersnap |

Today we are not so constrained by the rules of etiquette. In many establishments, oysters will be served already cut and you do not need a fork at all: you can simply drink the oyster from the shell. In my opinion, it is even tastier and more erotic. You don’t need to fork the clam. An oyster is like a grape. In order not to lose all the most delicious, you need to send it whole in your mouth. If you still need to separate the clam flesh from the shell, and there is no oyster fork at hand, do not torment the oyster with a regular fork or cut with a knife, use a teaspoon.

Oyster myths: just countless

I collect oyster myths that are funny, incredible, hilarious, and often defying logic.

Here is a misconception that is sometimes cited as confirmation of the great role of oysters in human history. The matter concerns the term “ostracism”, meaning persecution, rejection, contempt from the surrounding society. In ancient Athens, a popular vote was called ostracism, the “winner” of which was expelled from the city for 10 years as a threat to democracy.

Photo: Paula Borowska |

Photo: Paula Borowska |

The confusion arose centuries ago. Apparently, the matter is in the wrong translation from ancient Greek, in which oysters were called “ostreons”. And the ancient Athenians voted with “ostracons” (τὸ ὄστρακον – crock, shell) and wrote the names of those who were going to be expelled from the community together on special clay tablets or on fragments of pots. Because of this error, by the way, the sources also contain such translation options where ostracism is not even exile, but (oh my God!) The murder of a dangerous citizen with oyster shells.