May 21st

theresa albert - my friend in food


Shellfish Thoughts


The other night my hubby and I went to one of our favourite restaurants, one that is well known for fresh seafood and great service.   We started with a platter of freshly-shucked oysters along with a glass of beer for him and Cava for me.   Some people say that oysters are an aphrodisiac but, in fact, not having to cook and clean up after dinner will do that for me no matter what’s on the menu.

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”, Jonathan Swift was reputed to have said.  True, they are not the most appetizing-looking creatures and for some, their texture is a deal-breaker but for me they are manna from the sea.  Their delicate flavour is both salty and sweet but, in essence, they defy description: nothing tastes like an oyster (except for another oyster).

My first introduction to these marvelous mollusks was in the context of the famous dish “Oysters Rockefeller” which means they were smothered in a buttery, spinachy, Pernod-flavoured sauce and then baked to perfection.  They were so good that I vowed to try them raw and as I was in New Orleans at the time, the renowned Acme Oyster House beckoned.

Oysters were not always haute cuisine – quite the contrary, actually.  They were considered cheap peasant food and Acme Oyster reflected that heritage.  Pre-Katrina (it has since been renovated), it was a bit of a dive. Dining alone, I grabbed a seat at the counter so I could watch the shuckers work their magic on mounds of waiting bivalves.  A 400 lb. linebacker-like fellow behind the counter scowled and asked me “How many?”, in his thick Louisiana drawl.  I asked for a dozen; he shoved forward a couple of brown paper towels (the kind you find in high school restrooms) and a little plastic cup full of cocktail sauce with a wedge of lemon.  One of those towels was to serve as my plate.  He began prying open the shells and presenting me with the treasures within and I took to slurping away in delight, stacking the empties beside my “plate”.   I was in heaven and I’ve loved them ever since.

If you’ve never tried these gifts from the sea, there are a lot of reasons to start.  They’re an excellent source of minerals as well as some vitamins; they’re low in calories and most of them are harvested using sustainable farming techniques. They’re also pricey these days so you’re less likely to overeat!

So, get acquainted with the humble oyster; unlike the joke definition, you will find that it is not “someone who peppers their speech with Yiddish words” but rather is a refreshing, healthy treat.  Lewis Carroll said it best in “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.”



Ilana Waldston is the mother of two teenage girls who keeps sane by singing. A graduate of the prestigious International Cabaret Conference at Yale, she’s been delighting Toronto audiences with her comedic patter and well-honed ability to sell a song. She’s a self-professed foodie, loves to bake, travel and dine (often all at once) who sometimes sings of food in songs such as “My Diet Starts Tomorrow”, “Dieter’s Prayer” and “Foodblooz”. In addition to her solo work, she’s also a part of Toronto’s only female jazz quartet, The Satin Dolls...


One Response

    October 25, 2011 at 10:48 am Reply

    For me, deep fried is the way to go.

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