I was in college the first time I ate an oyster.
I filled my 1971 Ford LTD convertible with four of my best friends and headed to Boston…destination: Faneuil Hall. Our main interest was steak or prime rib, so we had unanimously determined we wanted to eat at Durgin-Park. There was something about eating on picnic tables covered with plastic red-and-white, checkered tablecloths that appealed to a bunch of college jocks.
I don’t remember with certainty who it was, but one of the guys ordered two dozen oysters. I was the only guy at the table who had never eaten one…and when they were delivered to the table I wasn’t especially inclined to partake with the other guys. The shell was ugly…the meat was even uglier.
My first thought was: who was the first person who thought it was a good idea to eat these things?!?!
One of the guys handed me an oyster with some cocktail sauce and lemon on it. His instruction was, “just slurp!” I did. All I tasted was the sauce and lemon. Big deal!
The next one had cocktail sauce, lemon and a touch of horseradish. I slurped. Again, all I tasted was the condiments.
The third and last one that I consumed had only some mignonette atop. The dressing was delicate but the meat was salty. That was enough for me… thanks, guys, but where is my prime rib (end cut, very well done)
When I was in grad school in Baltimore, I remember having deep fried oysters at The Inner Harbor. They were much better than the raw oysters in Boston…but my time in Charm City was spent eating as many steamed crabs as I could place my hands on. Two dozen Chesapeake Bay blue crabs…steamed in Old Bay seasoning…dumped on to a table that is covered in newspaper. Heaven! (I was typically broke, so I often relied upon friends to treat me!)
In the 1980’s I acquired a taste for raw oysters…typically eating them at The Salty Dog or one of the food counters at Faneuil Hall on a Friday night. Most recently, I enjoyed a dozen Wellfleet oysters on Cape Cod last September.
Nowadays, I tend to eat me first oyster with a slight touch of mignonette…so I can get a sense of the underlying flavor of the meat (whether it tends to be salty or sandy or maybe even a little sweet). If it is either salty or sandy, I tend to put a small dab of sauce, some lemon and a bit of horseradish on it before ‘slurping it down’. If it’s a little sweet, I prefer to enhance it with the mignonette.
I never eat them naked. So, according to Nico Romo (see the attached article, here), I am doing it all wrong.
C’est la vie!