Though first written in 1964 it is a book that I had not read before. I purchased a 2006 softcover edition with an introduction by Mark Kurlansky whose book, The Big Oyster, History On The Half Shell, is a more recent tome dedicated to humanity's favorite bivalve.
Written at a time closer to World War Two than present day, this book does much to capture an era and cultural lifestyle in Brittany that has come to pass.
The prose are in a style similar to that of M.F.K. Fisher sans the self importance and sense of entitlement. After reading this particular passage, quoted below, I was compelled to head over to my local fishmonger, New Deal Fish Market, and purchase a couple of dozen.
"It is briny first of all, and not in the sense of brine in a barrel, for the preservation of something; there is a shock of freshness to it. Intimations of the ages of man, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes shiver you a split second from that little stimulus on the palate. You are eating the sea, that's it, only the sensation of a gulp of sea water has been wafted out of it by some sorcery, and are on the verge of remembering you don't know what, mermaids or the sudden smell of kelp on the ebb tide or a poem you read once, something connected with the flavor of life itself..."
The author is writing about the Amoricaine or Belon oyster, the flat one, the most prized and arguably best oyster in the world, the one which most Americans have never experienced. I knew that I couldn't get those but New Deal happened to have Island Creek Oysters of Duxbury Massachusetts on hand, a briny, buttery variety that garners much praise and attention from oyster aficionados.
I returned home with the idea of doing oysters several different ways. raw, roasted poached and fried but opted instead for the simplest most direct method for the ultimate in oyster enjoyment; on the half shell with a mignonette.
Ponzu pickled ginger mignonette
3/4 C seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 C ponzu
3 T minced shallots
1/4 C minced pickled ginger
black pepper to taste
2 dozen oysters
I hadn't had oysters in a couple of months, a negligent oversight on my part for which I have no excuse. Whether it's been 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years the effect of a freshly shucked oyster on the palate is an unrivaled taste sensation that I never grow tired of.