going through an oyster phase
the root of a craving
I’m eating them at least once a week, which is not in my budget in Austin, where they’re expensive due to Texas being landlocked.
The Gulf oysters don’t count—these oysters are too big (grotesque). Oysters should be small, like the ones I first learned to eat on the East Coast. Able to fit perfectly atop your tongue, or in the cup of your palm.
It’s sophisticated to slurp an oyster in one motion; it’s unpleasant to have to bite an oyster in half.
I prefer mignonette to cocktail sauce. Maybe I like oysters only because I like the taste of vinegar. I could not—and have never—eaten them plain.
It’s also sophisticated to turn each half shell over on the ice when an oyster is finished. You can eat them clockwise or counter clockwise, so long as you eat and turn them over in order.
Maybe I like oysters because I’m homesick for summer in New York, where you can always get oysters on the half shell, and they are cheap, sometimes one dollar, and they do not require a reservation, or a plan. You can eat them cold on a hot day on a whim. You can stop in a for a few oysters.
Or maybe it’s a misplaced homesickness for spontaneity that existed only in flashes. A day off during the week, when the oyster bars weren’t full, and I’d already spent too much money, and so what was a half dozen oysters with a glass of Sancerre?
I remember eating oysters alone at a bar top on Grove Street in the West Village. It was August—my favorite month, but not a month, according to my Papa and to the rule of thumb, for oysters, as it doesn’t contain the letter “R.” I had the Friday off and spent the day walking and reading a book that, when I think about it, makes my mouth water. I read the book at the bar top and slurped my oysters and sipped my wine, and thought, This is what it’s like to be a grown up.
And so when I say I’m craving oysters, what I’m craving is: sweat rolling down the spine; the blast of air conditioning from a dark restaurant; a cold glass of wine, dripping with condensation; salt; an afternoon when the city isn’t quite so full; the slow pace before the evening rush; an afternoon of solitude; the sound of glass and metal clinking; an escape from the heat. The day belongs to you and there’s a seat open at the bar. The oysters are on happy hour. You can afford the glass of wine. It’s summer, and they’re so cold.