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Oyster

An Introduction
The oyster has maintained a timeless mystique when it comes to passion. Oysters are regarded as the food of love since immemorial time. According to Greek mythology, when Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, sprang forth from the sea on an oyster shell and promptly gave birth to Eros, the word "aphrodisiac" was born. The dashing lover Casanova also used to start a meal eating 12 dozen oysters. 

The oysters are regarded as both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. Eaten raw on the half shell or steamed, broiled, fried, sauteed, rockefeller, and frittered - have been a favorite of food lovers throughout the centuries, beginning with the Roman emperors.
 

What is an Oyster?
Oyster is the name most commonly used for different groups of bivalve mollusks dwelling in the shallow marine waters and have a rough, irregularly shaped shell. The shell comprises of two normally highly calcareous or bony valves which encompass a pulpous body. Gills filter plankton from the water, and strong adductor muscles hold the shell together.

The hard, rough, gray shell contains a meat that can vary in color from creamy beige to pale gray, in flavor from salty to bland and in texture from tender to firm.

There are two varieties of oyster, one is a delicacy , eaten both raw and cooked is a splendid seafood; while the other one is pearl oysters. Edible oysters belong to the family Ostreidae; within the family are two genuses (genera), Crassostrea and Ostrea.

 

Historical Background
Zoologists have determined that oysters first appeared during the Triassic period, some 200 years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The oysters have been consumed since the antiquity. It goes back to the prehistoric era of the Neolithic age, as we have evidence of oyster middens found from across the world. Oysters were an important food source in all coastal areas where they were plentiful. Great piles of oyster shells in many different areas of the shoreline are evidence of the early voracious appetite for these mollusks. Probably were regarded as something of a subsistence food, handy to have in times of need but never to be sought after when there was fish or meat to be had.

It is an universally acknowledged fact that the Greeks were great lovers of oysters. They collected   them on nautical A thwart in a boat. We also know that the oyster shells were used by the greeks as ballot paper. For example, if they wanted to banish someone from their city, they made a vote with the top of the oyster shells. The origin of the word "ostracism" would perhaps come here (ostrakon : shell). Ancient Greeks used to serve oysters as an incentive to drink.

The oysters were a great favorites of the Romans, in fact they could not conceive a banquet without it. This is why they imported it at high cost from Gaule. It was a certain Sergius Orata (140-91 BC) who first had the idea of organizing their breeding. The osters were either consumed fresh, with no ingredients, or accompanied by garum (a sauce which is like the nuoc man). It should be specified that the oyster known by the Romans were the flat ones. Romans imported them from England, placed them in salt water pools, and fattened them up by feeding them wine and pastries.

The shells of oysters are found extensively on the sites of villas, towns and forts of the Middle Ages; reflecting the popularity oysters as a delicacy amongst all sections of the population across Europe. But it is rather certain that the production of oyster was limited to the collecting on natural benches.
 
16th century saw the emergence of oyster meals for lunches. It was eaten very abundantly, nearly 150 per guest. Later in the 17th century it became increasingly a food of the elites and was a considered as an attribute of a good table. Jean-Francois of Troy (1679-1752) made a painting, in 1735, of these very snuffed lunches which were really a elite class phenomenon. The oysters have more and more success, and this craze will lead to the exhaustion of the natural benches and oyster farming becomes more and more necessary in the following century.

Early European settlers in America found an abundance of oysters along the coastlines and in the bays of the coastal colonies, which provided an easily-harvested source of protein. Up to the early 19th century, oysters were inexpensive and were eaten by rich and poor alike, now cooked in its own juices with a little ale and pepper. Then, quite suddenly, the natural oyster beds became exhausted, partially through overfishing and partially through pollution; it was only deliberate artificial breeding that saved them from extinction. They remain a culinary favorite and are found around the world, in both natural and cultivated beds.
Etymological Background
The word 'oyster' has been derived from the Middle English and Old French oistre, which in turn originated from the Latin ostreum and the Greek ostreon.
 

Flavor Of Oysters

  • The flavor of oysters can also vary widely depending on their growing environment. Factors such as salinity of the water, diet, mineral content of the water and water temperature all affect the flavor. Eat enough oysters and one will become very sensitive to the differences in flavor.
  • Oyster connoisseurs refer to the quality and flavor as briny or salty; buttery or creamy. A substantive oyster is meaty or plump.
  • The terroir can impart the tastes of kelp or other seaweed, mineral or metallic flavors.
  • Like wine and olive oil, oysters have nuances of other flavors from nature including berries, citrus, melon or general fruitiness.
  • Other oysters have vegetal flavors; or nuttiness. (Pacific northwest oysters are known for their watermelon notes cucumber notes—melony more in the Washington area and cucumber more in British Columbia.)
  • The more nutrients in the water, the plumper the flesh, and the more flavorful.
  • Terroir has microclimates: products grown or raised not far from each other can have different flavors. For example, Fanny Bay and Denman Island oysters are cultivated on the beach not far from each other, both on the east coast of Vancouver Island. They are very similar in meatiness, sweetness and saltiness. Yet, Fanny Bays have a cucumber finish (or aftertaste), while Denman Island’s unique microclimate gives its oysters a watermelon finish.
 
Nutritional Value of Oyster
One dozen oysters (120 g of the edible portion) are an exceptionally rich source of vitamin B12; a rich source of iron, iodine, selenium, and vitamin D; a good source of protein and niacin; a source of vitamins A, B1, and B2, and supply 85 kcal (360 kJ).

Availability of Oyster
Today's widespread refrigeration keeps them cool during hot weather, debunking the old myth of not eating them during months spelled without an "r." However, oysters are at their best-particularly for serving raw on the half shell-during fall and winter because they spawn during the summer months and become soft and fatty. Shipping costs generally prohibit movement of oysters far from their beds, limiting the abundant supply to local varieties.

Live oysters are best as fresh as possible and therefore should be purchased from a store with good turnover. One must reject those that do not have tightly closed shells or that don't snap shut when tapped. The smaller the oyster is (for its species) the younger and more tender it will be.

Fresh, shucked oysters are also available and should be plump, uniform in size, have good color, smell fresh and be packaged in clear, not cloudy oyster liquor. Live oysters should be covered with a damp towel and refrigerated (larger shell down) up to 3 days. The sooner they're used the better they'll taste. Refrigerate shucked oysters in their liquor and use within 2 days.

Oysters are also available canned in water or their own liquor, frozen and smoked. Unlike most shellfish, oysters can have a fairly long shelf-life: up to around two weeks.

Oysters in the shell can be served raw, baked, steamed, grilled or in specialty dishes such as oysters rockefeller. Shucked oysters can be batter-fried, sautéed, grilled, used in soups or stews or in special preparations such as dressings, poultry stuffings or appetizers like angels on horseback.

Wine And Oyster Pairings
Champagne and Chablis are the classic wine and oyster matches, but other dry white wines also work well. Popular pairings include:
  • Chablis
  • Champagne
  • Chardonnay
  • Dry Chenin Blanc
  • Dry Alsatian Riesling
  • Dry Sherry
  • Muscadet
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Pinot Gris
  • Sauvignon Blanc.
 
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