‘J’aime les huitres, mais ils ne m’aiment pas.’ I like oysters but they don’t like me. It’s a joke I’ve made many times in France, always with great success. Oysters, I explain whenever I’m offered them, always seek a very fast exit from my body.
Without wishing to sound like an oyster snob, the only kind I can eat without being ill are size 3 ‘specials’ ie smaller oysters that have been turned several times. (I only know about bivalve sizing because my former French boyfriend now owns an oyster bar on the Ile de Ré.)
And so when Luis arrives with oysters and a bottle of port to celebrate my final evening before leaving (again) for London, it’s a struggle to look delighted. (I'm also too polite to tell him that I'm not a fan of his national aperitif).
As Luis empties the craggy marine mollusks into the sink, I realise with a sinking feeling that they are size 1's - the biggest oysters but the most likely to make you ill since they’ve been hanging around in the sea soaking up toxins for eight years (size 3's on the other hand, are smaller, but have only been lurking there for six.)
Still, the evening is not without its compensations, namely watching my super-macho boyfriend expertly prising the oysters from their shells - or as expertly as is possible with a pen knife and no oyster glove. (With or without the correct kit, opening oysters counts in my top three most attractive skills in a man, along with chopping firewood and dealing with flat tyres).
But back to the oysters. Against my better instincts I swallow about six of the sluggy looking bivalves in succession, while trying to look ecstatic. Four hours later, I am wake up with that predictable feeling of nausea and spend the rest of the night making polite forays to the bathroom to throw up. Fortunately, Luis is asleep and doesn’t notice. Oysters the food of love? Not for everyone.