Satirist Jonathan Swift said, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster" - more like woman in my case! Veena and Kiran were back in town and one of their fave joints is Neptune Oyster, a tiny, ridiculously popular restaurant tucked into the North End, Boston's Little Italy. True to its superb reputation of specialization in New England seafood classics, the food [minus the raw oysters, but this is a personal preference] at Neptune Oyster certainly did not disappoint!
How to eat a raw oyster:
1. Don't wash the oyster. The liquid inside is already "clean" because oysters filter up to 50L of water per hour! Little hairs called cilia waft water through the gills. Whatever is floating in it, including phytoplankton and algae, is trapped in the mucus of the gills, transported to the mouth, eaten, and then expelled as pseudofeces (non-food particles) and feces.
2. Shuck the oyster. Live oysters must be pried open because they seal themselves like a rock to avoid being your dinner! If it's open, it may have died - do not eat it raw.
3. Loosen the oyster from the shell using an adorable miniature fork made especially for this purpose. Anatomical landmarks are evident on the oyster surface but I recommend not examining or pondering this until after it's in your belly.
4. Drink the "liqueur" or juice. Oysters are gastronomically classified by the region in which they live (even though they may be of like species). The many "tastes of the ocean" with distinct and desirable qualities are evident in the juice.
5. Slurp the oyster and chew. Oysters have no brain, so when they're chomped they do not feel pain like we do.
6. Swallow then savor the "finish." This aftertaste can be surprising - buttery, vegetal, fruity, creamy, etc. Admittedly, I am a notorious non-taster so these flavor tones were lost upon me.
I had significant and much-needed encouragement from our raw oyster connoisseur pals and especially from the two random gentlemen who sat next to us. How do I describe it - briny? ocean-y? slimy? definitely interesting and unexpected! Our friends tell me these oysters were immaculate, but I have to confess it may be a minute before I try this again!