June 7, 2012
This story begins with a flight.
I was halfway round the world gratefully traveling from Xi’an to Beijing. A full and delayed flight on which I had happily secured a seat since my later flight was further delayed and I risked missing my connection to EWR (or paradise, as one flight attendant so poetically put it). How appreciative I was in my small seat drinking safe water and politely declining the pasta and sauce offered as a vegetarian breakfast alternative. But there was one dark spot on my cheery horizon. A dark spot in the form of two rear coughers. Nasty, hacking, uncovered things shooting straight into the back of my sleepy head.
After 20 odd hours of transit, I felt that sticky sourness in the back of my throat which no amount of ginger-carrot-orange-watermelon juice could fight. Sick. Sick sick sick. And so I remained for the next two weeks, instantaneously passing my symptoms (arriving one by one) to Bobby and later to my cousin who miraculously had them all at once and recovered after 24 hours of…well…I’ll spare the details.
This is a food blog, right? Well, by Saturday, having suffered a week of head cold discomfort I began to google foods that might offer remedies. After the usual vitamin C recommendations, I learned that oysters promised zinc. And deliciousness.
The barest mention of o****** inspired Bobby to drive from his parent’s place in Merrick to Freeport’s nautical mile. There we saw some badly burned fat men and fine bivalves Much bigger than my northern Californian creatures and sporting numerous bivalves, these were no farm raised sissies. Hence, we also bought a knife.
The first one housed a small translucent crab. Bobby tried to tempt his family’s cat who would have none of the pea sized squirming morsel. When the second oyster also revealed a boarder, we decided to do some research.
These were not ill omens of oysters past their prime, but rather living pearls. At two dollars a piece at the turn of the century (yes, that century) one can speculate at their current market value. Fried alive they made for delicious bursts of concentrated crab flavor. There were four altogether, and never has one ounce of meat proved such a treat.
Who to invite to such a rare feast? Why a rare gentleman of course! None other than Cornelius Mackall, the first and only American winner (1976) of the International Oyster Shucking Championship in Galway.
Cornelius enjoyed the American treat (for oyster crabs do not lodge in European hosts). He kindly offered a quick lesson in oyster handling and politely declined that portion of the meal. After so many competitions, Cornelius is no longer so much inclined to oyster consumption. But he knows a pearl when he tastes one.