“O oysters,” said the carpenter, “You’ve had a pleasant run!

8570812_origO oysters,” said the carpenter, “You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?” But
answer came there was none
And this was scarcely odd, because
they’d eaten every one.

Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland.

So today at a local farmers market I decided to sample of these…well shellfish. Oysters were devoured by the bucketful in Victorian Britain, so much so that oysters were being dredged in huge numbers all along Sussex coast by fleets of oyster smacks (a smack was a type of fishing boat with a well for keeping the caught fish alive). Demand exhausted the oyster beds, so Oyster farming sprung up which in general took place in the English channel and along the Sussex coastline and on the other side in Brittany.

Take this recipe:

Oysters Katharine

48 to 60 oysters, depending upon number of guests
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped (sweet onion if possible)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley
1 4 ounce jar pimentos, minced
Freshly Ground Pepper
Parmesan cheese

You would’ve thought that Oysters would have been expensive but no, not so, apparently they were as cheap as chips and may well have been used to bulk up any luncheon whatever your budget.

Oysters were a regular food of the poor in London and other towns. As Sam Weller from Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers remarks, ‘Poverty and oysters always seem to go together’ and so they albeit pickled for the poor!

imagesSo having had them described by various friends in unsavoury terms, I took the opportunity to sample an oyster at a local farmers market.

The seller swatted the flies and wasps away from his stall, he split the shell, handed it over and suggested I and give it a dash of lemon. I was ready to gulp it down in one but was advised to hold it in the side of my mouth, and chew!

I looked at this alien in a shell and slurped it into the side of my mouth, had a chew and gulped it down. It was quite pleasant really and I shall certainly be eating them again!