One of my favourite creatures.

It is almost here! That one night out of the year where lovemaking is all around us, and what do we need to eat to make it happen? One might call it an “aphrodisiac”, some might call it revolting, but I like to order these by the dozen and slurp them down with reckless abandon. I am of course talking about the ever lovable and super sexy, oyster.

What can I say about these bivalve molluscs? They are quite certainly Mother Nature’s most perfect food; salty, chewy and slippery on the tongue. These slippery little suckers also pack a vitamin rich punch! High in zinc, calcium, Iron and vitamin A and B12. A dozen of these eaten raw, is also the supreme diet food; adding a mere 110 calories to your body.

All healthiness aside, there are a few things you should know about the beloved oyster. Did you know it takes between five and seven years to grow an oyster from spat? (Spat; a baby oyster). Oysters thrive in in plankton rich, well oxygenated salty water, that is why the Maritimes is the perfect place to cultivate them.

What about choosing the perfect oyster? I prefer larger, more meaty oysters, while my husband likes the smaller more delicate ones. Always make sure to buy oysters that are tightly shut. If it is open, it should close when touched and if it doesn’t, then don’t buy or eat it! An old rule about the oyster was that is was best to consume during the months that contained an “R” in their name. Not sure about that shucked oyster that was just brought to your table? If in doubt, don’t eat it, but let me just say that a “bad oyster” can be a extremely foul smell that you could sniff from a mile away. I was known, back in the day, the be the bad girl who would drop the rotten oysters in the compost bin beside the head chefs work station. Needless to say, he put a quick end to that!

How do you store an oyster? Simple rule; do not store them in water! Keep them in the fridge, and store cup-side down, with a damp newspaper over them. Some people say to eat immediately, some say two weeks, and I have even heard of a few months. The longer they sit in your fridge, the drier they will become as they will lose all that precious salty liquor that keeps them juicy and moist.

How to eat them? I am a purist; raw with no adornments. My husband, on the other hand, prefers the Tabasco, lemon and horseradish combination. I always tell people to try one naked before deciding on a topping. A classic French way to eat them is with “mignonette”; it is a red wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper mix. Sharp, pungent and tangy.

Can’t bear the thought of slurping them down? Try to bake them on the half shell. Cooked spinach, bechamel sauce and a little grated Gruyere cheese is a nice combination. As is bacon, apple and heavy cream. Why not throw then in a seafood chowder? How about the classic “Po Boy Sandwich”? It could also be a simple as dipping them in a tempura batter and giving them a quick fry to serve with lemon wedges.

‘Tis the season to celebrate love, so go crazy and get your hands on a few dozen oysters and throw yourself a party! Bottle of bubbly, platter of oysters and your best friend by your side. Can’t go wrong with that combination. Perhaps you aren’t in the mood to shuck? Head out to many of the great restaurants in the city that will do that for you. Press Gang, Five Fishermen Grill and Bistro Le Coq all have amazing oysters on their menus, and some even offer amazing deals during “happy hour”. Go on, get your oysters on this Valentine’s Day.

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