• Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    One bad oyster - so what?

    Last night we ate at a terrific steak house that also does very good seafood. We started with oysters. About 30 minutes after the end of the meal I had that explosive bathroom experience that confirms without a doubt that, yes, that one oyster you ate that seemed a little skunky, probably was not good.

    Would I call the restaurant? No. Would I forswear oysters? Never.The meal was great. To paraphrase a childhood icon turned latter-day freak, “One bad oyster don’t spoil the whole bunch girl…”

    It’s just an accepted risk of eating raw bi-valves in the world today. The other 7 or so were fine (we split a dozen). The Wedge salad was great, Iceberg, luscious tomato, blue cheese AND olive oil…black pepper…BTW, when, exactly, did we allow ‘experts’ to disregard Iceberg lettuce as worthy? (I have a sneaking suspicion this was the first wave of the annoying food McCarthyism that threatens my caviar, foie gras and lobster. Had we paid attention then ...but, I digress.)

    So, we were offered Pacific Coast oysters. Since my first Kumamoto, I have sort of unconsciously set the bar at a pretty high level. No flaccid, briny, Malpeques for me. A small, perfect, fresh, melon-y, cucumber-, gem of an oyster will beat all those big fat, diffuse East Coast varieties any day. I will gladly bear the occasional moment (or evening of distress) for the hours of dining pleasure on this flinty, clean, of-the-ocean, delicacy, especially if it’s West Coast or Pacific NW.

    I arrive at the table to a perfectly chilled martini and a few morsels of fried calamari, lovingly saved for my consumption. When I ask the waiter the rhetorical “did I marry the right man, or what?” he nods, bows almost imperceptibly, and excuses himself from the table.

    We enjoyed the hard-to-find-in-Boston perfect prime rib (rare, split for two), the wedge salad - iceberg, tomato, blue cheese, split a baked potato sour crème.

    A lovely evening made better by impeccable service and my observation of the most well-behaved 4 y.o. in a restaurant I’ve seen in ages, at the next table. She held her napkin on her lap, used it appropriately, tried new things (even an anchovy), never raised her voice, conversed pleasantly with her grandparents and the staff… no fussy entitled princess, she. I found myself mesmerized. Where has this endangered species gone?

    But back to our oyster – and I will say a few words here about raw seafood. My rules are common sense, not rocket science. Assuming healthy immune systems, one must eat it only at the most trusted places. Enjoy it completely and unimpeded by the awareness of risk. Other than egregious infractions, don’t bother to contact the restaurant if you should, in fact, have the occasional cleansing effect of a bad bit of bacterium. If this is too much to bear, don’t eat them. More for me.

    Such are the risks of eating raw seafood. To my mind, this is much less of a worry than the fully cooked meal that keeps you in the loo for hours – a sure sign of bad hygiene in the kitchen. People rant about “food poisoning” to little effect on me. Most all of our food related distress occurs from simple lapses in sanitation. A kitchen worker fails to wash their hands after going to the washroom. Lettuce is improperly washed and perhaps bought from a less expensive source that irrigates with questionable water.

    An occasional bad oyster is no one’s fault but mine. And I willingly accept the consequences. Some risks in life are simply outweighed by the momentary pleasure they allow.
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    3 Comments:

    Blogger Michael said...

    I agree wholeheartedly. I had a similar situation with crabs one time. There was a dodgy claw in the midst of the all-you-can-eat feast. I learned my lesson. But will that stop me from eating crabs? Hell no!

    4:58 PM  
    Anonymous Matt said...

    Very interesting...about 3 weeks later I had the exact experience. Mine occured at the tried and true neighborhood bistro down the street...incidentally the place where I began my obsession with oysters 5 years ago.

    Right as it went down I knew something may go awry, but I chose to douse my mouth with gruner veltiner to forget the foul taste. Within 30 minutes, however, the date night ended rather abruptly and I was home ridding my body of every calorie I had consumed that day.

    The next day, I vowed to swear off oysters for a while, creating numerous rationalizations why I should in fact not eat raw seafood.

    One day later, however, we were sitting at the bar of one of our other favorite oyster haunts, and I quickly got over myself and jumped back on the wagon.

    It's currently about 2 months and about 60 oysters later.....

    7:50 PM  
    Anonymous Matt said...

    Very interesting...about 3 weeks later I had the exact experience. Mine occured at the tried and true neighborhood bistro down the street...incidentally the place where I began my obsession with oysters 5 years ago.

    Right as it went down I knew something may go awry, but I chose to douse my mouth with gruner veltiner to forget the foul taste. Within 30 minutes, however, the date night ended rather abruptly and I was home ridding my body of every calorie I had consumed that day.

    The next day, I vowed to swear off oysters for a while, creating numerous rationalizations why I should in fact not eat raw seafood.

    One day later, however, we were sitting at the bar of one of our other favorite oyster haunts, and I quickly got over myself and jumped back on the wagon.

    It's currently about 2 months and about 60 oysters later.....

    7:51 PM  

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