Tuesday, October 5, 2010

“All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography” - Federico Fellini

Where is a good place to start?  How about the beginning. My obsession with oysters began way before my life really began. My mother constantly craved oysters while she was pregnant with me. And while I definitely want to avoid my story sounding like some sort of Tim Burton short story, (see: "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy") I somehow developed a very strong liking for the soft, salt taste of oysters at an extremely young age.

My father, against my mothers wishes, would take me every weekend to a little seafood diner with the exterior of the building painted with a comical underwater scene with Octopuses wearing smiling faces, mermaids and colorful schools of fish.

My father and I would sit at a booth and between him and I, would devourer plates of raw oysters. How did I like my oysters prepared when I was a mere three years old? Extra lemon, and a pinch of salt. Slurp!

The waitresses were always kind to me and let me take the empty oyster shells home. I couldn't part with these little jewel cases. The thought of throwing them away made me terribly sad.

So my father and I would return home, with a baggie of oyster shells. I couldn't believe how beautiful they were! Marbleized opaque interiors and rocky barnacled exteriors. The contrast to me was too unique to waste! I would fill up sand pails with hose water and salt and dump the shells into my mix so they could feel at home. After a few days, my shells would always mysteriously disappear. I didn't understand who would throw away my little sea creatures. (I later found out my mother would dispose of them after a few days. I can see now how they could get a little grotty)

My love with oysters, and their shells, was cut short when at age 4, I got extremely sick when I contacted Hepatitis A from, you guessed it, raw oysters.

My mother says I almost died it was so severe. And that's when she completely cut them out of my diet.

Now that I am much older, I have start enjoying oysters once again. I cannot resist them when I see them on the menu. And they are as delicious as I remember. How do I like my oysters prepared at age 26? Extra lemon, horseradish sauce and a pinch of salt. Slurp!

(And now I leave the shells at the restaurant)

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