'Delicious!' says Andrew, 'giant bogeys' says Charlotte. Team lovefood make the case for and against oysters.
Oysters, liver and anchovies have topped a list of foods most hated by the British people. 47% of the population said they wouldn't eat an oyster according to the recent Save the Children poll, with the figure increasing to 57% for women. And yet oysters are still very much a lusted after luxury food... so do we love them or hate them? In a lovefood battle, Food Writer Charlotte argues against oysters, whilst Editor Andrew argues for them. Who do you agree with?
Why I hate oysters - Charlotte
I’ve only tried oysters once, on Valentine’s Day many moons ago. I could feel the slippery critters sloshing about in my stomach for hours afterwards; a sensation which, at three o’clock in the morning, culminated in a lot of vomiting. It’s not my most romantic memory.
Apart from the gelatinous, mucus-like texture (“I just slipped on a giant bogey!” exclaimed Joey after treading on an oyster in a classic episode of Friends), I also can’t stand the appearance – they look like little brains, or those horrible jellified aliens that were fashionable when I was a teenager.
Then there’s the taste. ‘Salty’ is the only word that springs to mind – I didn’t get any of the distinguished melon, citrus, copper or smoke notes that others have described. I do remember thinking how fresh they felt in my mouth… but no more so than a cucumber, or peas plucked straight from a garden pod.
Finally, I don’t like foods which you can’t bite in to. ‘Eating’ an oyster is like swallowing your chewing gum – both so unnatural that it actually takes quite a lot of concentration to allow yourself to do it. Humans chew; penguins swallow whole – and I’m certainly not the latter.
Why I love oysters - Andrew
'The bravest man the world ever saw, was he that first ate an oyster raw,' goes the old line. And that's part of the joy of oysters; they're one of few foods eaten not only raw, but still alive. A life, contained in a sea shell, reminds us that the sea is a harsh mistress. They are not tofu.
I've harvested rock oysters on the shores Loch Fyne, and seen their empty shells glitter on the tables of The Company Shed in Essex. One of the nicest plating of oysters I've ever had was at the Sportsman Pub in Whitstable (a town known for its beautiful bivalves). Here the traditional ice was replaced with washed stones from the beach; the accompanying Tabasco bottle came propped at a jaunty angle; and the oysters were a combination of virgin natives and rock oysters, topped with homemade chorizo. The whole thing looked like a nautical still life.
There is of course a danger element attached to oysters. One help see off Michael Winner (no bad thing some might say), so best not to eat them at five star luxury Caribbean resorts. Ok, so if you don't like them raw and want to be safe, at least try them cooked. There's some great recipes from history such as Oysters Rockefeller, named after the great 20th century philanthropist featuring cream and spinach. While Oysters Kirkpatrick adds bacon.
They take up to five years to grow, yet five seconds to eat. The taste? The salty tang of the sea, the smack of a wave, ozone and brine, crisp citrus flavours from a squeeze of lemon and a slurp of white wine. Yes they're expensive for what they they are; but that only makes them all the more interesting. Oysters remind you that you're born, you eat and love and live (and pay for it), and then you're gone, quick as a flash.
Who do you agree with - Charlotte or Andrew? Have your say in the poll below...
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