The oyster. As French poet Leon-Paul Fargue famously wrote, “It’s like kissing the sea on the lips.”
While one might argue that the oyster never really went away, the days of ordering a plate before dinner did decline—until recently. Research firm Datassential, notes that in the United States oysters appeared on 9.6% of restaurant menus in 2014, marking a 15.7% increase from 2010. With this resurgence in popularity, Jonathan Swift’s claim that “He was a bold man who first ate an oyster” may no longer apply. In fact, many trendy restaurants around the world are being increasingly creative with the many ways oysters can be served. Fried oysters now appear in mini sliders with dollops of curry mayo. Oysters on Friday night are now sometimes just slurped from the bottom of one’s oyster martini. Famed food writer Anthony Bourdain recently visited an Asian billionaire who prefers to empty the seawater from his oysters and top them off with champagne instead. Of course, many still enjoy the classic taste of a freshly shucked oyster on a bed of ice with a dash of horseradish. Luckily, the continued rise in the popularity of the oyster means that one need not have the shucking skills required to do-it-yourself!
Few realize there are 50 types of oysters in the world’s seas but only a few varieties are farmed and eaten. Depending on the minerals in the water where they’re farmed, one might encounter a plump oyster, or a lighter and more salty variety.
In terms of determining whether the oyster is fresh, one would be advised to think back to our French poet’s words about kissing the ocean—a fresh oyster should be wet inside, slippery and smelling slightly like the sea.