September 1

It's Oyster Day

Oysters "R" In Season. Livermore. Blue Point Oyster. The Driftwood. Bacons.

Days Until. . .

Labor Day 6

Oysters "R" In Season

Today is the beginning of the oyster-eating season. Not that any dedicated oyster-eater has abstained from eating the succulent bivalves throughout the warmer months. Indeed, I pick up the pace in the summer, because raw oysters are refreshingly cold.The idea that oysters should not be eaten in months without an "R" began, like most of our oyster culture, in New York City. New York's harbor once teemed with oysters. Before refrigeration, delivering oysters to places where people ate them was an open invitation to pathogens in the oysters, and people got sick. The prohibition against raw oysters in non-R months was not a tradition, but an actual law. The advent of refrigeration, especially when it began to start on the oyster boats, solved that forever. There's also the matter of the spawning habits of oysters in summer. Sometimes it results in a milky liquid that can be off-putting, even though it's harmless. The oysters get flabby this time of year, too, and sometimes shrink dramatically when cooked. (Restaurants hate this, because they get the blame for what is really a natural state of affairs.)

Food Calendar

As we begin September, we learn that it' s National Biscuit Month, Better Breakfast Month (bake biscuits!), National Chicken Month, National Cholesterol Education Month (I think we already know too much), National Honey Month, National Mushroom Month, National Organic Harvest Month, National Papaya Month, National Potato Month, and National Rice Month. But for me, it's Oyster Month.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Livermore is a rural hamlet of 450 people in the vast corn country of north central Iowa. It's 124 miles north northwest of Des Moines. It was first settles in 1853 by one Henry Lott and his family. It was big enough to have its first school in 1857. Livermore may have come to your attention in 1968, when a grain elevator, filled with corn dust from a cleaning operation, exploded, killing two men. (I do remember this.) One of the big events in the summer is the annual pickup truck mud run. Here's the town's website for more goings on. There are no restaurants serving liver or anything else in Livermore. The nearest eats are at Big John's, four miles west in Bode.

Edible Dictionary

Blue Point oyster, n.--Oysters from the Great South Bay, south of Long Island, New York, particularly in the area near a small cape called Blue Point. These were among the most famous of all the oysters of New York City, but like all the rest of them they were polluted nearly out of existence. They've made a comeback in recent years, but chances are that any oysters you find bearing the Blue Point name are merely similar to the real thing. In fact, Blue Points are of the species crassostrea virginica, the same kind of oyster found down the Atlantic seaboard and into the Gulf of Mexico. The excellence of Blue Points comes from the cold sea water where they live.

Deft Dining Rule #129

The oyster fishery is in decline in any place where restaurants charge on a per-oyster basis.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

When cooking oysters, when the edges of the oyster begin to curl, remove them from the heat. That means they've begun to shrink, and you neither want nor need that to happen.

Forty Years Of Food Writing

The first restaurant review under my byline came out in print today in 1972. It was in The Driftwood, the campus newspaper at LSUNO (now the University of New Orleans). One of these days, I'm going to dig out that article and reprint it in its embarrassing entirety. It was the first of some 2000 restaurant review columns. The column moved to the Vieux Carre Courier after I graduated, then to Figaro, and finally in 1980 to CityBusiness, where it is still being published. (And in this newsletter, of course.) I can't prove that it's the longest-running one-author restaurant review column in the world, but I'm pretty sure it is. I invite anyone who knows of a longer-running column to bring it forward.

Food Namesakes

Jazz saxophone great Art Pepper was born today in 1925. . . Today in 1878, Emma M. Nutt became the first female phone operator in America, in Boston. . . Two Bacons: Today in 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led an uprising against the British governor in Jamestown, Virginia. It resulted in the town's being burned to the ground, ad became known as Bacon's Rebellion. And Ezekiel Bacon, a Massachusetts Congressman in the early 1800s, was born today in 1776. . . In 1875, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, was born. . . Classical composer John Bake was born today in 1787.

Words To Eat Oysters By

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans."--Ernest Hemingway."Before I was born my mother was in great agony of spirit and in a tragic situation. She could take no food except iced oysters and champagne. If people ask me when I began to dance, I reply, 'In my mother's womb, probably as a result of the oysters and champagne -- the food of Aphrodite.'"--Isadora Duncan."He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating oysters."--King James I."I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime 'associates,' food, for me, has always been an adventure."--Anthony Bourdain.

Words To Drink By

"Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it."--Alfred Jarry.