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Monday, November 03, 2003

The Snot and Grape Juice Diet

A local area seafood restaurant, The Flying Fish, sponsored a gathering in honor of the wide variety of Washington oysters now coming into season. I received my invitation at the last minute on Saturday afternoon. I had been driving around doing various errands and hadn’t had anything to eat. We showed up at the restaurant promptly at 1. I had been up since 8 or so and had been to the gym. I was ready to eat. When they said this was going to be an oyster affair they weren’t kidding--the only food they had was oysters.

I like oysters as much as the next guy. Either that or I dislike oysters as much as the next guy. Does the next guy like oysters or is he just faking it like me? When I lived in the Chesapeake Bay area most nights of drinking began with everyone getting a dozen oysters on the half-shell. I would douse my oysters with a tablespoon of Tabasco sauce. It is hard for me to imagine anything that is too disgusting that I wouldn’t eat chased with a tablespoon of hot sauce. I think that our attraction to oysters was simply a matter of dietary machismo and had little to do with whether or not we liked the taste.

The restaurant had set up several tables with each table offering different oysters from around the Puget Sound along with local wines—Washington excels in both bivalves and wine. Each table had a crew of shuckers and the oysters they were opening for us were truly magnificent. Most of the wines were of the sauvignon blanc varietal and went well with the briny, slimy oysters.

I was so hungry I felt like I could eat the shells. I was sucking down oysters right and left, up and down, back and forth. I was like John Belushi in the Animal House cafeteria but with better clothes. It was a pretty civilized affair and I was trying to fit in. The hosts at each table explained the qualities of their particular fare and its point of origin within the myriad channels of the Sound. After receiving one such lecture I commented to our party about how this oyster, served with a squeeze of lemon, was like a very citrusy cup of snot. I know, not very funny especially when you consider that one gal in our party was fairly new to the whole raw oyster thing and was trying hard not too find the whole ritual as revolting as it really is.

Everyone else there must have been as hungry as I because the moment the hosts put out some fare that wasn’t raw (fried oysters and baked oysters with corn chutney) the crowd rushed the tables like a rugby scrum. The scene could only be described as a feeding frenzy. There were only one or two fatalities and after the carcasses were hauled out the back exit things settled down. The wine played its part to deaden hunger and the afternoon stretched on into what was to become the world’s longest appetizer course.

After our afternoon of celebrating Washington oysters we went to a Mexican joint and ordered everything on the menu except oysters.

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