Thursday, July 28, 2011

the next best thing to sailing...

 I wonder if I can say this well enough. If part of the pleasure of sailing is in the quality of the air in your face and the simplicity of the devices used to propel you into it, and if this is enriched by the taste of sea on your teeth and your tongue, and if the wind has the taste of the water that surges beneath you and it is fresh in its saltiness, then the next best thing to that is eating an oyster.

Un-cooked, no sauce, nothing but fresh, pure oyster taken straight from its shell. In there is the texture of slippery rocks awash in sea water and the licking of kelp in the pulse of the tides. In there is a taste all over the mouth, not just on the tongue; clean, wholesome purity.

We spend hours in kitchens and restaurants conjuring complex flavours that don't come close. But like so many of the most worthwhile sensations, this one is bitter-sweet when we consider how unbelievably plentiful they used to be when clean water was abundant and people were few.

I can't eat an oyster without thinking about a book called 'A Secret River' by Kate Grenville, which wraps a wonderful story of a clash of cultures around the settlement of the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. For thousands of years the oysters were plentiful, and simply there to be had by anyone who was hungry. Within decades the English settlement was struggling to feed itself. Details of the book can be found here.


  1. Happy coincidence, Rob - Mary and I attended a barbeque dinner last night where the first course was oysters. Mary is not fond. Which leaves more for me!
    I told a story of having the privilege to be allowed by the tribe to visit a cove one fall afternoon, on an uninhabited island they own in the southern Puget Sound. The oysters there were indigenous (an anomaly in itself) and bigger than my foot (which is not small). They grew so thick I mistook them for rocks at first. No one is allowed to harvest them, so I only looked. They were probably too big to eat anyway.

  2. They must have been allowed to grow a long time to have shells so thick- it's nice to hear of places where restraint is placed on our consumption. I referred to a marine park and the revival of it's mussells a few posts ago. I love to eat fish, but I'm really happy to see reserves and parks to protect them from us.