Why Speak Oyster?
Let us say that you are a crossword puzzle freak. Or maybe you just want to go to a raw bar, talk to the shucker, and sound like you know your stuff. Better yet, you want to explain to your guests something about the food you are serving. Words like "Thingy" and "Bluepoint" and "Belon" and "abductor muscle" and "hinge" are words that can tell knowledgeable oyster people that you are probably a novice. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Turning the tables, when you do know your lingo and you go to your oyster merchant, raw bar, or restaurant and you see (on the menu) or hear language (from the seafood market attendant) like "these oysters come from Bluepoint Connecticut" you may even want to head for the door. There is no such place. Ignorance at the source of your oysters can be downright dangerous.
The only real danger involved with your knowing the vocabulary is when you use it as a hammer to show off or worse - you become an oyster snob. You bash an otherwise very good waiter or waitress in the brain like Little Lord Fauntleroy. This usually involves being able to roll your eyes and/or sigh heavily. We are talking sucker punching here. Get over yourself. We have all done it.
Of course knowledge drives speech. Words are a benefit of knowledge, but not all knowledge can be put into words. If you don't believe me, try explaining, in words only, how to shuck an oyster. A great percentage of what we know is unconscious - especially if it is a subject we have "mastered."
Crassostrea Gigas - Is pronounced dg-eye-guz not giguz as in gig. It is always plural.
It's Adductor muscle, not abductor muscle.
Crassostrea virginica is a species of oyster. Virginica is always lower case. The oyster is native to the Atlantic Coast but is no longer exclusively grown there. They are also farmed in the Pacific Northwest and France.
Belon is a river in France made famous for its oysters. It is not a species of oyster. It is an Ostrea edulis species that can also be found growing wild on the East Coast of the U.S.
Bluepoint is the name of an historic variety of American oyster from Long Island. It also is not a species of oyster or any given farm. A "Bluepoint" could be farmed in Connecticut.
Wellfleet is a town in Massachusetts. It is not a single farm or species. There are over 90 farms whose oysters are called Wellfleets.
Duxbury is a Bay in Duxbury Massachusetts. It is not a single farm or species. There are dozens of farms in Duxbury Bay.
Kumamoto is not a species of oyster. It originated in Kumamoto Bay Japan. It was brought to America after WWII. Recently American Kumamotos have been hybrid to make them larger. You can tell the difference in the taste. They are less sweet.
R-Months: "It is only safe to eat oysters in the R-months" is still observed in England for native oysters. The R-month idea originated in England. Why? The O. Edulis oyster fertilizes its eggs in its shell. Eating the eggs does not promote oyster population growth. Plus the eggs taste like chalk. Actually the safety lies not in the R-month but in the temperature of the water. (See the Oyster Thermo tab above on this subject.)
Triploid oysters are oysters with three chromosomes. They do not spawn. They are usually either C. virginica or C. Gigas. They are not GMO's. If you don't like the idea of eating them, it is probably too late. You have already eaten one. Farmers are not required to tell you what hatchery seed they use.
Alive yes, a well shucked raw oyster IS alive. You can sometimes see its heart beat.
50 gallons a day. Oysters are filter feeders. In frigid waters they go dormant and stop filtering. They do not filter 24/7/365. The number 50 is an approximation. Big ones filter more. Smaller ones filter less. They like to eat what the tide brings in.
There is no such thing as...
Some terms are too generic to provide good results:
An Oyster there is no such thing as "an oyster." You must be more specific. If you ask for an oyster you can get one of hundreds of different varieties. Ask what you are eating. It could be farmed or wild - diploid or triploid.
National oysters there are no such things as French oysters or American oysters. If you ask for one, you will not get any specific oyster.
Local oysters could be from a town, region, or country.
An oyster knife: There is no such thing as "an oyster knife." If you ask for one, you may get a knife that does not work well for the variety of oyster or method of shucking you intend to use.
Oyster wine there is no single wine that will taste good with every oyster. Some oysters are sweet. Some are really salty. [Champagne is perhaps the exception.]
A farmed oyster in New England probably grows in a cage. A farmed oyster in the Gulf of Mexico may grow naturally on the bay floor and may be a result of dredging. Using the cage allows farmers to retrieve them and tumble them for shape. Farmers usually have a lease to farm a specific area.
Oysters Rockefeller have become so general in recipe, that if you see them on the menu, you may not get what you are expecting. I know a restaurant that serves three different versions. It will be baked and it probably will involve spinach. Otherwise, ask first about the recipe or be surprised.
"Safe" cooked oysters: Cooked means that they have been heated. But they may not be cooked enough to kill all the bacteria in the oyster - ask how, and how long, or watch. Are they steamed, baked, microwaved, or roasted?
Shucking methods are not universal. In France, the connection to the lower adductor muscle may not be severed. In North Carolina, the top shell or lid may receive the oyster.
ACCESS TO OUR KNOWLEDGE
Over the years Oyster Information has attempted to be a source of knowledge and education about oysters. We have created several online resources. All of them can now be accessed from one place:
Thank you for your interest!
Richard D. Rush
Editor in Chief
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