Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gifts for Foragers

It's that time of year. FOTL doesn't endorse Black Friday, hellish trips to malls, or other forms of conspicuous consumption (shopping gives him hives, truth be told), but it is traditionally a time of giving, so we'll be offering a few suggestions over the next few weeks for the forager on your list.

First up is the book Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobsen, an informative, witty, and fast-paced appraisal of the ostreaphagist landscape. Eating a raw oyster is about the most carnivorous act of feeding most of us westerners (as in hemisphere) will engage in during our lives. The oyster is still alive, after all, or it should be. But what pleasure and sensuality too! As the French poet Leon-Paul Fargue said, eating oysters is "like kissing the sea on the lips." This is a good time to be an ostreaphile. After centuries of decline during which the planet's original oyster beds were pillaged and polluted into near extinction, the oyster is making a comeback with new aquaculture techniques and a dedicated confederacy of shellfish farmers, improving water quality in the process. Jacobsen introduces us to the major species of oyster on the culinary stage, their commercial history, and the current state of oyster eating in the world.

Admittedly, Geography is more for the oyster eater than the forager, but for those of us lucky enough to live in places where wild oysters can still be gathered off the beach—primarily Florida, Louisiana, Washington, and B.C.—there's knowledge to be gained about what it is we're eating. For the rest of the oyster-slurping public, Geography is a primer—not unlike a wine guide—on the tastes and textures of the most famous—to extend the wine metaphor—oyster appellations around the world, and how to pair these inimitable bivalves with other foods and drinks.

As Jacobsen writes, "When you eat oysters, you wake up." Anyone who enjoys oysters will devour this book and then make tracks for the nearest fish market, raw bar, or oyster beach, senses alert in anticipation.


Anonymous said...

I always learn something when I visit. Thanks, man.

Anonymous said...

Wish I could do oysters. You make them sound so great but have tried for 30+ years that I have lived in WA but to no availe. Now clamming season will be coming and I can use some tips or a guided lesson. Thanks Lang.

Langdon Cook said...

Is that you, Bascoe? Now how are you going clamming over in Spokane?? Next time yer in town I'll take you to my go-to spot... there's oysters there too; maybe you just need a touch of mignonette to scarf one down.

Nope: I'm glad I can offer a new trick or two to a grizzled veteran such as yourself. BTW, your fall color photos are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

That would be me Finny. There are fresh water mussels in a few of the rivers around here but alas the heavy metal content keeps me away from them. I got enough of a lead ass without adding to it. I was actually thinking of coming over for clam season and could use a guide and some lessons.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking it could be fun to plan a progressive trip of oyster eating. Do it like a vineyard tour. Just head from one bay to the next with slurp here and there.

But only if they are small ones. Those big gaggers they try pawn off on the unsuspecting... ick.

Anonymous said...

Randomly I read Geography while researching a recent project. It was amazing to learn how many oyster varieties you can come by locally.