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  • Writer's pictureCarsten Sprotte

Ode to oysters

I was born and raised in an American Christian cult that enforced strict adherence to the Levitical dietary code listing those creatures deemed unfit for consumption. No pork, of course. But hot dogs can be made of beef or turkey. No seafood either, but there wasn’t too much of that on Texan tables anyway. Confined to this Judeo-Christian straitjacket, on which an entire book could be written, I still grew to 1.87 meters in height. For at least one decade, I was holier than any of you reading this now. Holier than thou.

Where many had fled the old world to escape religious persecution, I fled the new world to escape religious lunacy. That’s not exactly how it happened, because I debarked on the beaches of Normandy as a true believer. Gradually, the spirit of the enlightenment began to seep through the walls of my doctrinal confinement, and the hinges of certainty came loose. Above all, I tearfully thank Babette (from the movie Babette’s Feast). Imagine yourself a guest at her generous table garnished with one delicacy after another that your God labels unclean. You look into her eyes and see the love she has put into this sumptuous preparation. You look upon the silver platter of oysters, a mosaic of mucus and mother of pearl, gleaming wet with precious waters they secrete as you secretly spie them.

And the Lord God said: “Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales you will regard as unclean”.

And she, the oyster, said: come to me darling and drink of my living waters.

This was the moment when I lost my religion or was it the birth of a new faith? For sure, it was the start of new diet!

She (oyster is of feminine gender in French) and I have been intimate ever since. In due season, hardly a day goes by without my honoring her life. Fine de claires, pleine mer, spéciales... from Normandy, Brittany or Marrenne, at morning, noon, or night. With lemon, vinaigrette, or pure and natural, just as she is.

L’Huître offers herself to be eaten alive. She will settle for nothing less than freshness. You cannot wrap her in plastic, freeze her, or inject her with conservatives. You must not put her away to wait, as if something else meant more to you. You must not recklessly set her to repose, and let her vitality leak. You must take her now, and with great care and attention, and before all the rest. She is tightly sealed, and her secrets too, only yielding to those with requisite art. You cannot bang or crush her without mutilating her tender mucus, her vital essence. Nor can you poke hastily with your blade without danger to your own flesh. There is a sweet spot from which you may wedge with single-minded focus and also your pledge...until she gives. Then suddenly, all becomes loose and she is there before you, yielding. The impenetrable jewel has joyfully acquiesced.

She shines there in glory like the blossom of an exotic saline flower. In dignity and praise, in contemplation amazed, she desires to be delicately devoured.

To drink her waters do not haste; sweeter yet she will make them for you alone to taste.

Oysters inspire me, but they're a slippery ground for prose. Remember Veules-les-Roses?

An entire sea is contained within an oyster, and in a sea an entire world. I ask for no pearl, only possibility.


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