17 November 2013

The Oyster

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the past twenty-six years is that life—or at least my life—will never be worth the kinds of struggles that are sometimes asked of us and that I do not have a survival instinct.

Have you ever wondered about how we’ve learned that certain foods are okay to eat and that some are not?  I mean, trial and error, I guess.  But have you ever wondered about what kind of person is desperate enough for food that they’re willing to scrape an oyster up off the ocean floor, hold that craggy mound in their hand, smash it against a rock, and then slurp out whatever is inside?  And then, once they’ve done it and realized it didn’t kill them, just do it again for pleasure?  Because if I was ever in the situation where I was stranded by the sea with nothing to eat and I had absolutely no knowledge of what I could eat, I don’t think I’d be going for what I have always equated with the ocean’s waste.  Or even if I did know what I could eat, and I knew that one of those things was an oyster, I think I would just say no thank you, because no matter how hard or painful it may be to die of starvation, I know in my heart of hearts that it hasn’t got anything on trying to swallow a moist, fleshy mass that lives on the ocean floor all day and filters seawater.  Also, I wouldn’t say “thank you,” because being offered an oyster is not something to be thankful for.

My hatred and disgust of oysters might be linked to my mistrust and fear of the ocean.  The question of what I would do if I was on a sinking ship has been asked of me a surprising number of times, and when someone for some reason fails to ask me this question, I will often volunteer the answer because I think it really speaks to the kind of person I am.  The answer is that I would kill myself.  Immediately.  Even if there was a 99% chance of being saved, I would kill myself before I hit the water.  Even if there was a 100% chance of being saved but it meant spending even 30minutes in the ocean, I would kill myself.  Because I can’t think of anything worse than spending time out in the middle of the ocean, hoping that someone would eventually rescue me and risk being brushed up against by a giant squid or nibbled at by some fish.

You guys! Here I am, making gifs! I
probably could have come up with
something more oyster related, but
frankly, oysters aren't really the most
gif-able creatures.
The possibility of actually dying in the ocean and having my water-logged corpse slowly float to the ocean floor while various sea creatures nibble at my decaying flesh that is waving openly in the ocean’s salty depths like so many anemone fingers swaying in a current is abhorrent.  Of course, if I killed myself on a boat I would still meet the same fate.  I am hopeful that adrenaline would take over and I wouldn’t have time to think about it before I died, whereas if I was bobbing around in the ocean, I would be forced to confront what would happen to me after I died.

It’s seems unnecessary to now talk about whether or not I would ever eat one of these briny pockets of phlegm.  The answer is no.  Like, absolutely never.  Remember when I just said that I would commit suicide if I was on a sinking ship?  I think I might actually do the same if I was faced with eating an oyster.  Sometimes when I watch movies or tv shows that have torture scenes, and there’s always someone jamming a sharp object under another person’s fingernails or branding them or whatever, I always take a minute to pray that 1) I will never be the victim of torture, or 2) that whoever is torturing me will not find out about how I feel about oysters, because nothing would pain me more than having to eat an oyster.  Which is why I am writing it down on this blog right now (because I can be certain that absolutely no one will read it).

Maybe I don’t have any authority on what an oyster tastes like, but what I do know is that oysters are nothing more than a small blobs of flesh that live in  gnarled, knobbly shells, and that they do little more than filter sea water all day.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that they taste like the ocean at low-tide.  But an ocean taste that is palpable and fleshy.  And that some people willingly eat, probably because they are perverted and deeply disturbed masochists. 
Here's me, crying amongst an oyster bed because that is the only way I would know how to respond to being
surrounded by so many oysters. Plus, I bet it smells so, so bad there.
There’s probably a way to prepare oysters so that they don’t taste like oysters.  Sometimes I think that developing new ways to flavour otherwise disgusting objects would be a worthwhile endeavour.  Like maybe someday someone will develop a new flavour for charcoal.  The texture of charcoal kind of appeals to me because it reminds me of Lucky Charms marshmallows.  But why would you drown out the original flavour of something that by nature has a disgusting and vile texture only to make it more palatable?  It seems like marinating oysters in (garlic?) butter is probably a thing, but whatever you use to mask the taste, you still have to deal with getting that oyster to go down your throat.  The texture is probably the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to oysters (maybe just after my moral aversion to the sea).  You know how sometimes you accidentally swallow a half-congealed blood clot or a particularly viscous clump of mucus?  That's the only thing that I can think of that might be remotely similar to eating an oyster, but I bet an oyster tastes a whole lot worse.

The practice of eating oyster is also really crude.  I don’t know what it is about seafood that makes everyone abandon their etiquette rules, but it’s disgusting.  Are these people actually just bringing a shell to their mouth and then slurping a slab of fleshy muscle down their throat?  Those people are barbaric monsters and they need to stop it.

I typically try to refrain from learning anything about whatever it is I’m writing about because I think that these blog posts should reflect my impressions of food as closely as is possible without being coloured from outside sources.  (This is a general rule that extends to academia as well.)  But I just googled oysters and I learned two things:
  1. They look like a slug somehow managed to get inside of a small, cramped, moist space and then died. And then rotted.  I used to spend entire days collecting slugs only to throw them into the ocean.  I guess now we know what happened to them all.
  2. There is more than one kind of oyster!  Apparently people don’t eat oysters that produce pearls, but I don’t understand why not.  Those pearl-producing oysters are so stupid and deserve to be eaten (even though eating any oyster is a crime against humanity, or at least a crime against my humanity).  If some little grain of sand found its way into my body, I would try to either eject it or absorb it fully.  Probably the last thing I would do is build a larger casing around it.  
For any of you seriously committed to eating oysters, let me just close on this note.  Obsessively worrying about dying in the ocean has convinced me that one day I probably will die in the ocean.  And all those little bits of flesh that are nibbled at by fish and pooped out, and all those little flags of tissue that pull away from the bone and drift through the open water... Those are the things that get filtered through oysters. I mean, probably. I don't know what else oysters eat if they don't just filter sea water.  And my dying wish is that some of my hatred will be bound to those miniscule pieces of fish poo composed of my digested tissue and those little flaps of water-logged corpse-flesh, and that you will spend the rest of your days full of self-loathing and disgust because that it what you deserve.

Finally, here's a quote from Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphry Clinker:

“Of the fish I need say nothing in this hot weather, but that it comes sixty, seventy, fourscore, and a hundred miles by land carriage; a circumstance sufficient, without any comment, to turn a Dutchman’s stomach, even if his nose was not saluted in every alley with the sweet flavor of fresh mackerel, selling by retail. This is not the season for oysters; nevertheless, it may not be amiss to mention that the right Colchester are kept in slime pits, occasionally overflowed by the sea—and that the green color, so much admired by the voluptuaries of this metropolis, is occasioned by the vitriolic scum which rises on the surface of the stagnant and stinking water.”
None of us will ever read this book, but Smollett has a point. 

I’ve never understood why eating an oyster is a privilege to flaunt
Because if the world is my oyster, it’s not a world that I want. 

These people brag about how eating oyster is a sign of refined taste
But what they're slurping down their throat 
is nothing more than discarded sea waste.


  1. I can't believe you're making gifs. I'm so glad I forced you into information studies.

  2. First of all, the "depravity" tag was the first place I thought to look for this post. Secondly, this: http://gawker.com/this-is-the-worlds-largest-oyster-1527507712?rev=1392953814&utm_campaign=socialflow_gawker_twitter&utm_source=gawker_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

    1. I would have looked under "Ocean Garbage" myself.