OYSTERS - Love them or hate them

Many years ago I was enjoying a meal with some good friends at a rather wonderful Brussels brasserie.

My friends enquired whether I had ever eaten oysters and replied with much trepidation that I had indeed not. My concern being that I may be asked to try one!

Why all this fear?
Oysters are sometimes associated with severe sickness and worse. Or good health and more. Oysters are indeed very good for you, containing a number of nutrients.

There are many humorous stories about oysters enhancing libido. True or false? No idea!

Although viewed as a luxury, hundreds or more of years ago they were just a cheap form of food.

Some people eat an oyster by literally swallowing it whole. Apparently to avoid tasting it. However, if it is not fresh, a very nasty bout of sickness will visit the individual. Really nasty and lasting for days.

I was persuaded at least try one. However, strict guidance was provided. My preference for an accompanying wine? Slightly cooled Sancerre Rouge. Red wine with seafood? Personal preference. Against normal choice, but that's me!

The oysters were served, shells ready opened by the chef. Naturally possible for to open the shell oneself, but quite challenge!

The oysters glisten in temptation.


First of all, ensure the oyster is still alive by squeezing lemon on the surface. Ideally it will contract slightly, which is perfect. Should the oyster still be attached, gently slide a small fork to enable it to be eaten.

The next step is to raise the oyster towards the nose, using a fork or picking up the shell. Smell it. Should there be any doubt that it is not healthy or deteriorated, it will be obvious. Difficult to describe, but a smell rather than scent.

A healthy oyster will indeed have a delightful scent; fresh and inviting.

Now the ultimate experience. Place the oyster in your mouth and chew it. The taste; so gentle will enliven your desire for another oyster and another.......

The chance of being ill would be almost zero.

There are many types of oyster. My favourite being Papillion. Also there is the renowned Colchester Oyster. I was one informed by a waiter in Brussels that 'Les huitres Colchester' were delicious and not too large.

A thousand years ago, crushed oyster shells were used in the building of Winchester Cathedral, where they were mixed with lime-based 'cement' used beneath each enormous supporting column. Why? It stopped the line 'cement' from squeezing out from between each column. Fragments of oyster shells can still be seen on some of these massive columns.

From a critical part in the building of the 1000 thousand year old Winchester Cathedral, to pure enjoyment of such delicacies.

Should anyone be tempted but cautious, perhaps the above method could provide motivation to enjoy these tasty gems.

OYSTERS - Love them or hate them written by Simon Lever in association with Beauty and the Beast Publishing. Photo courtesy of Colchester Oyster company 

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