The Pig's Arms new North American correspondent...... shucks

In which I answer the question: Is it ever appropriate to order oysters on a first date?

Oysters are funny things, aren’t they? Right up there with the funniest things you can eat. Not counting the truly bizarre – monkey brains, blow fish, pig balls and the like…but regular food. Oysters have to be the weirdest normal food out there. I mean, let’s face it! Oysters are odd. They look like extremely large boogers laid out on ashtrays arranged on a bed of kitty litter; but we pay a fortune for them (unless you order them at Hooters or something but that’s a pretty dicey proposition, isn’t it?). You have to be a real risk taker or completely mesmerized by boobs and orange shorts to order oysters at that place.

Then again, who am I to talk? I’ve ordered oysters in Rocky Point, Mexico. Ever been there? It’s not what anyone would call a culinary experience. They have this place called the Happy Dolphin. It’s basically a three story bar crammed with tables that serves food smothered in cheese. I’ve never seen a single table of sober people at the Happy Dolphin. Last time I was there my whole floor was having a food fight. Tortillas were flying every which way. One group of middle-aged drunks spent the whole night continually tossing theirs into the ceiling fan above their heads and laughing uproariously as they shot dramatically across the room. The staff didn’t even flinch they just kept loading them with more fish-bowl sized margaritas, refilling the tortilla plates and occasionally sweeping up the mess. There were no looks of disgust or frustration just resignation pure and simple. “Gringos being gringos. What are you going to do, amigo?” they seemed to be thinking.

I did not have oysters at the Happy Dolphin and I did not throw tortillas either…well, not many.

I did have oysters at a little sidewalk café called the Blue Marlin. The food there is excellent and I found the oysters quite delectable. That is, until I got home and every newspaper heading and every TV report and every internet blog was screaming about high levels of fecal contamination in the waters near Rocky Point coupled an outbreak of Vibrio Vulnificus that was causing gastroenteritis, cholera, dysentery, colitis, flux, colic, ague, abnormal flatulence, bloody stools, tachycardia, turgor, vomiting and a hundred other horrible things. Mmm…that’s making me hungry just thinking about it.

Some reports say 99% of the oysters in the Gulf Coast are contaminated with Vibrio Vulnificus…and I am assuming that the Sea of Cortez around Rocky Point is pretty much the same percentage and before you ask, no, Tabasco won’t kill the bacteria and neither will tequila.  Think about it. 99% is right around the same percentage you have of losing in Vegas. I don’t know about you but I don’t like those odds.

While we are talking percentages, I’ve read that 60% of the people treated for oyster-related illness are men. I don’t think that necessarily proves that women are stronger than men. I think it proves that more men are stupid enough to believe that oysters are an aphrodisiac or that men are more desperate to try an aphrodisiac than women. Honestly, who really believes that a snotty little mollusk will make you “strong like bull in the sack?” Same people who think that rhino horn will do the trick probably.

I do want to go on record here…this is not the reason I like oysters. My love of oysters is hereditary. I grew up on the things. Back in Australia in the 70s oysters were king. We could get them everywhere. I’m serious we could quite literally drive into a gas station (well, petrol station) and say “Oy, mate! Fill ‘er up and while you’re at it check me oil and I think one of me tyres is a bit flat too. Oh, and top off the washer fluid, will ya? Oh, yeah… and we’ll take two dozen oysters. Yeah, go ahead and shuck em we’re gonna eat them in the car.” It’s true…google meribula oysters petrol if you don’t believe me.

They have good oysters down under. Small but tasty. The first time we came to the States (in 1977) we arrived in San Francisco and went straight to Fisherman’s Wharf and ordered an oysters appertizer. We couldn’t believe what they carried out to us…two or three inches long they were. Great slabs of oyster meat! We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. Then we tasted them. Wasn’t pretty. I’ve had plenty of good oysters stateside since then but that was not a good day. My mum, she’s 80 now, but she still talks about the horror of it.

“We ordered oysters in San Francisco, it was” she’ll say. “Oh, what was the name of the place? Filene’s Basement, I think.”

“No mum, that’s the place you went shopping in Boston.”

“Oh yes, marvelous place. We had to get coats in San Francisco. It was so cold. Even in summer! That San Francisco is so dirty. Not as dirty as New York City but still not like Melbourne. Well, Melbourne does have some dirty spots I suppose, don’t you think?”

“What about the oysters, mum?”

“Oh, they were terrible, weren’t they? Flabby, tasteless, horrible, yuck! Not like we have here in Australia. You see, our oysters are much smaller but they are sweet and delicious…” Yes, that’s right…my mother is Dame Edna Everage. So now you know where I get it from…

Anyway, the point is I don’t eat oysters to get feeling all sexy or anything like that. I really do like how they taste. But sometimes it is hard to convince people of that. Ever order oysters on a first date? The girl will be all “Uh-uh, no way buddy!” She will immediately be all up in your face, wagging her finger and doing that thing where they kind of move their head independent of their shoulders in a threatening way as if to say “You did not just do that! You did not just order oysters! Not with me! Not on a first date!” Men wont do that if the girl orders oysters, of course. No girls, if you order oysters on a first date he will just assume you’re a slut. So, all in all, it’s better to wait a while before going the for the old oysters on the half shell.

Come to think of it, there’s really only one good time to order oysters: Valentine’s Day. Picture it…a nice romantic dinner, both of you all dressed to the nines, a nice bottle of wine chilling by the table. You look at her and see desire in her heart. That’s the night to order oysters. Just make sure you don’t happen to be having this dinner at Hooters or in Mexico because if you are you won’t be “getting it on” later that night you’ll be in the bathroom alternately puking your guts out and suffering from horrendous bouts of explosive diarrhea. Bon appétit!