Foods You Should Know: Oysters

First thing first, I have made a deal with to combine our blogging powers. This means not much for this blog other than it increases my ability to reach more people. But please go check out the good people at MealZeal when you get a second.

Oysters are a divisive food. Either you love them or they make you skin crawl. But what if I was to tell you that they are one of Canada’s greatest fishery resources? Canada farms some of the best oysters in the world, and this is great for those of us who love Oysters. We get them fresh, and we get lots of different varieties from all over Canada.

But we also have a problem..Even though Canadian waters produce large quantites of high quality oysters, Canadian companies rarely control these stocks. Recently, on the west coast The Fanny Bay Oysters were bought out by a larger American company Taylor Shellfish. The Fanny Bay Oyster Company represented the last Canadian owner and operated oyster farm on the west coast. We as Canadians are becoming less and less involved with this great resource and down the road it may become less available to us.

Now for those who really don’t care about Oysters and think they are snot on a shell. Who cares who owns and runs Canadian fisheries? You should, because the more the people and the government of Canada doesn’t support it’s food producers the less control we have over what is being produced, how it’s being produced and where the food on our table comes from. We all have a vested interest in supporting Canadian food producers.

Now I am not going to try to sell anyone that they should or should not eat raw oysters. They do take a modicum of bravery to eat as Swift noted*. They are slimy and as I said before in my Sushi article eating cold savoury food is a mental block some people can never get over.  If you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating a bad oyster the violence of the illness that comes with it could turn you off for life. I’ve been there and I totally understand, vomiting until your eyes go blood shot for a week is never fun, but you go back to alcohol right?

Oysters come from the Mollusc Phylum.** Oysters are what are known as Bivalves which also include muscles and clams. Oysters do grow in the wild but what humans eat are farmed. As to allow for easy harvesting and to protect fragile seafloor ecosystems. They are by nature a green crop, they cannot survive in pollution, they remove carbon dioxide from the ocean in their shell production process, and they create natural habitats for fish.

Oysters are known as a great aphrodisiac. They have high levels of zinc, vitamin E and dopamine, which can help battle depression and help get your date into the sack. They also go great with wine, beer and whiskey. Charles Dickens spoke about Oysters and Stout as the working man’s lunch in Victorian Britain.  In A Moveable Feast Hemingway talked about his love of Oysters and dry white wine.

Oysters also don’t need to be raw. Oysters Rockefeller is a classic New Orleans dish that combines a puree of green vegetables, bread crumbs, spices and butter to a oyster on the half shell. It is rich and spectacularly tasty. I will eventually release my baked oyster recipe, which contains bacon, smoked gouda and other fun stuff. Deep friend oysters are great in a sandwich or as a finger food with a nice dipping sauce.

So don’t fear the oyster, embrace our salty, sweet, smily shelled friend and expand your food horizons.

*”He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”-Jonathan Swift

**Squid, Cuttlefish, Octopi, and snails are just four of the 85,000 different species of Molluscs.