I felt a little queasy. I hadn’t drunk much champagne but I felt a strong nausea rising up the back of my throat. Inside the sleek mirror lined ladies toilets, the cubicles were full and a young woman stood with her legs tightly crossed. “I’m SO busting!” she said loudly. I suppressed the urge to retch.
It had to be the oysters.
Yesterday’s post (For friends new to reading blogs, see below) was an excerpt from my novel-in-progress - Foodanista - describing the thrill of Oyster Frenzy in days gone by. Monday night’s adventure was actually a little different.
I’ve always looked forward to OF and the people it attracts. Oyster lovers are bold, interesting and fruity. Conversations are easily struck with total strangers enjoying the shared bond of the bivalve. I love it. My year pivots around it. I wallow in my gluttony; I kiss my friends and make new ones. Each time I’ve been, there have been more familiar faces, but not this time.
Earlier this year we missed out on May OF tickets whilst overseas. Things must have already changed then, as the crowd this time was very different. For a start there were only a couple of familiar faces, there were curiously less oyster eaters and more wine tasters. Some didn’t even eat oysters - bizarre.
We did make a few new friends, but what soured my evening were the new oyster suppliers. On arrival, as we strode up the mirrored corridor to the bar, the far wall was festooned with a banner advertising the fashionable fishmongers Clamms. My heart fell. I hoped that the formidable Ash Brothers were also plying their wares, but my hopes were dashed.
For me one of the highlights of OF was chatting to Jim Ntentis, GM of Ash Bros. He taught me so much as he stood and speedily shucked for three hours, carefully retaining the juices whilst deftly detaching the muscle that held the oyster in place, explaining about the different oysters he was showcasing, their environment, seasons and flavours. He even came along with the sacks of oysters and shucked at a friend’s private oyster frenzy in their home, showing us how to remove them for ourselves.
On Monday night Damian noticed that the new suppliers had pre-shucked many oysters well in advance, and were merely lifting them onto the ice from boxes, having left them to dry out a little. Much to our dismay those that were being opened during the course of the evening were being rinsed vigorously, so all the fantastic juices were disappearing down the drain.
That was enough to break my heart. The reason given to me was that the shuckers could not dislodge the oysters without scattering a great deal of shell grit all over the flesh. I looked at the dead dehydrated oysters sadly stretched tightly to their shells and opted for the live rinsed ones.
Mr StickyFingers continued on to achieve a personal best of 82 oysters, but I lacked gusto and fell short of my own PB. I think in fact, the lack of care paid to my beloved bivalves led to my visit to the conveniences. Feeling a little worse for the wear, I silently wished that we had brought our own shucking knives with us.