Oysters. Never fancied them. Made me wretch at the thought. Rubbery, ugly, chewy and slimy. Just something for Made In Chelsea characters / posh people to waste money on...
So I thought till I was in my 40s...
I had previously only tried them once - when out with a work client (in hindsight, not an advisable time to start your oyster journey).
That time, just to be sociable - and as the customer had wanted to try one (at Loch Fyne in Leeds - it's stuck with me) I thought, 'oh go on, I'll give it a go'. The company was paying anyway!
I drowned it in all the trimmings - vinegar, lemon. tabasco, onions, (think you're only supposed to choose one) chucked it to the back of my throat, tried to swallow it, starting choking, tried to reswallow to avoid projectiling it into the face of my client, choked and eye-watered even more as I forced it down for a second time and swore never to have one again.
Overall, not a pleasant experience - and I was also a bit perturbed when I heard later that oysters were actually alive when you ate them. I decided to do some oyster googling.
So here's some oyster Q & As in case anyone is wary about sailing into oyster territory...
1) Are oysters alive when you buy them / order them in a restaurant?
Apparently yes - they must be alive and the shells must be open. If you want to check, tap on the shell - if its alive the shell will closel! Dead ones ie none responsive should be discarded and are not safe to eat as they contain dangerous bacteria..
2) Can oysters feel pain? Will the oyster be aware when its travelling down someone's gullet??
Seafish, a non-departmental public body set up to improve efficiency and raise standards across the seafood industry, say that whether or not oysters feel pain is still up for debate. ‘Unfortunately there’s no definitive proof either way. There are groups that argue oysters might feel pain, and others who say because as they don’t have a central nervous system then they don’t feel pain in the way other seafood species might. We currently don’t have research in this area. ‘As for when they actually die, this is likely to happen when they are shucked, rather than when they are chewed or swallowed.’
3) What is 'shucking' an oyster?
Shucking is when the two shells of an oyster are levered apart and fully opened.
4) What's the best way to eat an oyster?
Here's a link to an article on Forbes - how to eat any oyster like a pro..
Many years later with a fading memory of the choking, I thought I'd try one again. I had decided to go with the option that they were dead once shucked, and not whilst being consumed.
This time it was in Brighton so nearer the sea than Leeds, and they were great!
Salty, sea-ey, if that's a word, chewy in a good way, with just a squeeze of lemon. I took it slowly, tried to chew it instead of inhaling it - and I was a convert!
So in summary, I'd still probably rather have some duck spring rolls as a starter, but oysters are great as a treat. I found huge rock oysters for 75p on (the World Famous) Bury Market near me and then also in Tesco. They may be a bit of a bugger to open (suggest a knife or screwdriver!) - but they're even cheaper than a pack of spring rolls..