Wendy moved to France in 2005, where she fell in love with everything French.
My Introduction to Oysters (and a Skinny Dip)
Did you know that the French are the biggest consumers of oysters in the world?
I had my very first oysters when I moved to France. Here, seafood—and especially oysters—have a privileged place on Christmas tables. It wasn't long after I moved here before the time came: I could no longer avoid trying my first oyster.
I had seen them before but I had never dared to eat one. To be honest, I'd had nightmares about these creatures ever since I went to a seafood bar in southern Spain where they had all sorts of live seafood still crawling or wriggling on trays waiting to be eaten. Most of the seafood was eaten raw with just a sprinkle of lemon juice to make sure that the chosen victim was still alive. If the victim wriggled in its shell when the lemon juice touched it, it meant that it was fresh and ready to slide inside your mouth.
After my traumatizing experience in Spain, it took some encouragement—and a few glasses of champagne—before I was able to try my first oyster a couple of years ago. A friend had come to visit with a basket of oysters and there was no way I could refuse to eat them.
When we opened the first oyster I had the “honour” of eating it, and I had no idea how to do it. The smell of iodine was overpowering, I carefully slid it into my mouth and felt its saltiness spreading; the texture was smooth but crisp at the same time. I loved it and immediately asked for another one. We tried them with lemon juice, with vinegar; with shallots . . . they were all delicious. After that day I was simply “love-struck” with oysters.
The year after, we travelled three hours to the seaside with the same friend just to eat a couple of dozen fresh oysters each. Not content with that, after a long walk on the beach, we went back to the same place for dinner to have another couple of dozen oysters each! Did they have an aphrodisiac power? Personally, I am not sure if it was the oysters or the white wine—or maybe both? But I was feeling so hot I could hardly contain myself, I was tingling in funny places, feeling soooo good. I am not going into details here all I can tell you is that later that night I was having a skinny dip in the sea, despite the cold weather!
Probably the first aphrodisiacs were those that resembled sexual organs; thus, food that in some way looked like vaginas were reputed as being aphrodisiacs. By this criterion, one of the most famous aphrodisiac foods are oysters for their clear resemblance to female sexual organs.
Oysters are an excellent source of minerals. The most important being zinc (6.5 mg / 100 grams). They also contain iron (twice as much as red meat), magnesium, calcium, iodine, copper, and potassium. If that wasn’t enough they are also rich in vitamins A,B,PP, C, E, D and E (antioxidant). To top things off—as if it couldn’t be better—oysters are very low in calories: 8 oysters (around 100 grams) have only 70 calories. So yes, you can actually sit and eat oysters to your heart’s content without those guilty bulges hanging outside your bikini later on, provided of course, that you eat them raw.
How to Choose Your Oysters
In France, oysters can be eaten all year round, but the taste changes according to the time of the year. During their reproduction period (May to August) oysters tend to be more “milky,” which is not to everyone’s taste.
If you buy oysters (at least in France), they are classified in numbers according to their size, a number 5 is the smallest one while a 0 is the bigger one.
How to Keep Your Oysters
Keep them at a temperature not lower than 5°C but no higher than 15°C. In winter you can keep them outdoors. During the summer, the vegetable tray in your fridge is the best place to keep them. If they have not been opened, oysters can be kept for a maximum of 10 days.
How to Open Oysters
A good oyster should not open very easily, the shell should be in a good state, and it should smell nice.
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To open it, use an oyster knife. If you don’t have one, you can use a little knife with a pointed blade.
Wear a thick kitchen glove to hold the oyster and protect your hand or put a kitchen towel folded in four over your hand to protect it. There are lots of accidents related to opening oysters, so please do be careful.
Place the oyster on your hand with the “swollen” side of the shell facing down.
With the other hand grab your knife with your thumb around 1cm away from the end of the blade. Insert the knife at about 2/3 of the oyster, cut the muscle and lift the shell to separate it from the bottom shell and open the oyster.
The oyster should be eaten at the most within three hours of being opened.
How to Eat Oysters
It is recommended to open the oysters a few minutes in advance before eating them, empty the first water that you find and leave them for a few minutes to produce their “second water." Still alive but deprived of its water, the oyster will produce in about one to two minutes a purified water very rich in minerals and salts. This “second water" enhances the flavour of the oyster and it means that it is ready to be tasted.
The less caloric and most tasty way to eat an oyster is raw and on its own. If you prefer, you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before eating it.
In France it is also popular to eat oysters with a little drop of shallot vinegar. This is the recommended way by nutritionists as the vinegar does not destroy the vitamin E in the oyster the way the lemon does.
Oysters can also be eaten cooked in many different ways.
Which Wine Pairs With Oysters?
It is very important to select the appropriate wine to drink with your oysters as a bad choice can not only mask the taste of the oysters but you can be wasting a good wine that is not appropriate to drink with oysters.
But choosing the best wine to drink with your oysters is a very difficult task as the choice not only depends on personal taste but also on the origin of the oysters and the way you are going to eat them.
Ordinarily, oysters are accompanied by white wine. The strong content of iodine in oysters makes a simple dry white wine a safe choice. Avoid white wines that contain too much sugar or fruity accords. The most common wines associated with oysters are:
- Quincy, reuilly, pouilly-fumé, sancerre
- If your oysters are not very strong in iodine a white Bordeaux or a white Coteaux du languedoc can enhance your “oyster experience”
Now if you are feeling luxurious or want to mix aphrodisiac food and drink you can choose a bottle of Champagne.
Are Oysters Really Aphrodisiacs?
Oysters are very rich in zinc, a mineral that stimulates our immune system and it is also indispensable for the production and synthesis of the male hormone testosterone. Also the high content of iodine increases the production of thyroidian hormones, which in turn give a boost to your sexual desire. To complete the picture, the vitamin C in the oyster helps counteract the effects of the effort during sexual encounters.
For men, the oligo-elements in the oyster help the production of sperm.
Other Foods Thought to Be Aphrodisiacs
- Chocolate and coffee. Both contain substances that increase the amount of endorphins in the body.
- Wine and champagne.
- Spices. In France, mustard has a reputation for stimulating the sexual glands.
- Ginger, known for its vaso dilatants effects.
- Truffles and vanilla. Both are aphrodisiacs for their scent. The truffle, with its masculine, woody scent, seems to awake the senses in women, while the sweet-warm scent of vanilla awakens the senses in men.
Whether oysters are aphrodisiac for their nutritional content, for their scent, or for their looks it is not 100 percent certain. But then, why not try? Aphrodisiacs shouldn’t be tested in laboratories, they are meant to be tested in your bedroom. Oysters are delicious and easy to digest for a romantic dinner. Accompanied by a bottle of champagne and some dark chocolate for dessert, they might just bring the fireworks to your bedroom; or better still, for a change, they might bring your bedroom to your dining table.
Food for Thought
- Are Oysters an Aphrodisiac? | Smithsonian Magazine
In 2005, the oyster as aphrodisiac got a big boost as many consumer publications reported that bivalve mollusks (which include clams, oysters, mussels and scallops) had been found to have desire-inducing properties.
- Do aphrodisiacs work? The truth about foods like oysters and chocolate | CNBC
Can oysters or chocolate really spice up your love life? Mic takes a look at the truth behind these so-called aphrodisiacs.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Wendy Iturrizaga