Isak Dinesen once wrote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”. Besides penning the novel, which later, was adapted into my all-time favorite movie, I’m convinced she not only was referring to the healing powers of the salty sea, but to the bewitching, briny, exquisite creatures laying well below it. One slurp of these babies and, Yowza!! Senses are amplified—you’re suddenly more awake, more ALIVE. Cold is colder, sweet is sweeter, and happy is happier. Yep, I’m talkin’ about oysters. Like stinky cheeses, brussels sprouts, or fish sauce —there’s no middle ground when it comes to oysters. Either you love ‘em, or you hate ‘em.
I, for one, am solidly in the L-O-V-E camp. My love is unflinching for my oh-so-slurpable friends. A devout oyster purist, I am. I don’t want them gussied up with butter, cheese, garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, salt or pepper. I don’t want them baked, barbecued, broiled, roasted, steamed, smoked or fried. I don’t want them to go by fancy-pants names, like Rockefeller, or goofy ones, like Bingo. Oysters are like kisses from the sea, and I want my kisses one, and only one way: Raw, on the half shell, with a quick squirt of fresh lemon and a small smattering of Hog Wash Mignonette. Forget hush money, promise me a few dozen Kumamotos and I’m your girl.
Admittedly, I developed my oyster crush late in life. It wasn’t until my first year out of college did I have my first encounter. And to be honest, I was pretty nervous. Palm-sweating-nervous. I was living in Chicago, out at my favorite sushi joint, minding my own business, when two oyster shooters arrived at the table. Staring at the tallish shot glasses, I debated whether to “accidentally” knock mine onto the floor, dart out the back door to hail a taxi, or turn myself invisible. Instead, I closed my eyes, held my nose and the rest, as they say, is history.
Oysters have a reputation for only performing on ‘special’ occasions. Anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and the like. They’re often members of the forgettable opening act and seldom, if ever, the main headliner, the Lady Gaga—the one you really came to see. But luckily, we now live less than an hour’s drive from beautiful Tomales Bay, the epi-center of all things slurpy, salty and wonderful, where fresh local oysters, at dirt cheap prices (the Dungeness Crab ain’t so shabby either) are served up in a small, nondescript shack just off Hwy 1, turning any ordinary Saturday morning into the most special of special occasions. The kind when you’re celebrating nothing at all. Here, oysters are always the main headliner, and any ordinary Saturday morning turns into a delectabale, salty cure for anything.
I think Miss Dinesen would agree.