Why Do You Not Chew Oysters?

Did I hear that correctly? Do you not chew your oysters when you enjoy this fishy delicacy? Whether it’s the texture, the idea of slurping down a living creature, or simply the taste, I’m sure you have valid reasons. But you are depriving your tastebuds of the carnival of ocean aromas bursting out of the few bites you take when gulping away at a delicious little oyster.

The biggest faux-pas when enjoying oysters is not to give them a few chews when swallowing them fresh. Biting into the oyster releases its liquor and introduces the subtle flavors of creaminess, sweetness, and umami – the taste that lends it its ocean savoriness.

For someone who has never encountered the subtle fishy sensation of a chilled oyster reaching your tastebuds, the experience might sound as daunting as eating sushi for the first time. But let me open up your mind and introduce you to the phenomenal pairing of your favorite white wine with this ocean delicacy’s fresh, salty taste.

Do Oysters Feel Pain?

The main concern seafood lovers have when first attempting to eat an oyster is whether the oysters are aware of what’s happening. On different levels, there is always slight regard if the oyster has “feelings.” Do they feel pain? Does it hurt them more if you chew on them before swallowing them? And the answer is, we don’t really know. 

Oysters indeed have no central nervous system and a tiny little heart but no brain. The ganglia are two nerve masses that control bodily functions. The oysters use the gills and cilia to filter the water. They are also aware of chemical changes, like when you squeeze a bit of lime juice on them and switch slightly.

But to the lack of a brain, they cannot sense fear, and chances are they cannot feel pain.

Are Oysters Alive When You Eat Them?

Oysters are most definitely alive when you eat them. If they were not, the risks of being infected with bacteria and viruses are much higher, and you can get very ill if you were to consume dead or infected oysters. Therefore, eating an oyster as fresh as you can get is crucial. Damaged or opened oysters are also a clear indication that the oysters might already be dead when you purchase them.

Besides the health value and the likelihood of contracting bacteria through an infected oyster, live oysters are most beneficial when consumed raw. When an oyster is freshly killed, shucked, or opened, it has the optimal nutrient capacity, flavor combination, and texture to digest—providing your body with minerals and vitamins in a dense quantity.

Are Oysters Considered A Vegan Food?

Seeing that a vegan diet consists of no animal or meat-based products, which includes fish, poultry, and shellfish, the comprehensive answer would be no. However, since oysters are bivalve mollusks and have no brain and no central nervous system, some vegans are comfortable with eating things like mussels and oysters since they’re such a high source of vitamins and minerals.

Even though they are not classified as a plant-based food items, they lack a brain that grants them freedom from pain sensors.

Where Did Eating Oysters Come From?

The oyster has been around for as long as 15 million years. They predate the dinosaurs and can live as long as 4 to 5 thousand years. They mature in about a year and can change their sex to produce both sperm and eggs, making it easy for them to reproduce in any ocean in the world.

During the 19th century, oysters were in abundance and readily available. The working class enjoyed it as a cheap and popular food source. The local oystermen became adept cultivators and provided bountiful work and nutritious food, but a higher demand and popularity exhausted the overstocked oyster beds. This plethora of markets resulted in the oyster becoming a scarce and expensive delicacy.

Can You Eat An Oyster The Wrong Way?

Regarding oyster etiquette, there isn’t a proper way of eating your oysters. Whether you prefer slurping them down or daintily letting them slide into your mouth, it’s all up to you. However, oyster connoisseurs advise us of a few tips to properly enjoy your delicacies.

For one, they don’t want you simply to gulp down the oyster meat and swallow it whole. When you chew it a few times, the natural oyster liquor is released, and the salty, fresh ocean flavor is introduced to your tastebuds. Depending on where your oyster originates, you will start to detect the subtle difference in sweetness and textures separating the different types of oysters. When you bite into an oyster, it releases the full flavor of the oyster.

What Is The Best Way To Eat A Live Oyster?

Enjoying an oyster is an experience. It might just have one mouthful of deliciousness, but you need to savor every bit to appreciate the subtle flavor explosion.

  • Most importantly, you’ll need to ensure that your oysters are served exceptionally chilled. Doing them upright on a bed of ice is the best way. The oyster liquor should remain in the shell and be enjoyed with the shellfish.
  • Ordering your oysters in a restaurant or at your local fish market, make sure they’re scrubbed nice and clean. Before shucking or serving them at home, it would do to give them another rinse under the cold water and wash them with a vegetable brush.
  • If you serve any condiments and sauces with your oysters, ensure they are chilled. Don’t dowse your oyster in too many because it might hide all the natural flavor combinations. Simply squeeze lemon juice or a mild mignonette for the best experience.
  • Before tasting the oyster, take a nice big sniff and inhale the natural aroma of the oyster. If it smells too much of fish, it might indicate that it’s off. You will smell fresh ocean water and slight fishy aromas.
  • It is generally served with a tiny little fork to detach the oyster from its shell. Simply squiggle the oyster free so it lies in its liquor, ready to slide into your mouth. 
  • Before you add your condiments, take a little sip of the clear oyster liquor to prepare your mouth for the flavors that are to come.
  • Add your smidge of condiments to enhance the flavors and texture of your oyster. Then let the oyster slide into your mouth from the wide-angle of the shell.
  • Before swallowing, chew your oyster as many times as you like to release the natural textures and flavors of the oyster. The consistency should be firm, chewy, soft, and gooey. Oyster connoisseurs describe the tastes of the different oysters as salty, sweet, melon, buttery, briny, copper, or metallic.
  • It’s been highly debatable to pair your plate of oysters with a crisp white wine or a glass of champagne, where some people even like to pair it with a stout.
  • After you finish your oyster, you can place your shells upside down as a sign that you are finished, but once again, this etiquette is not set in stone, and you don’t have to.
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What Does It Mean If You’re Craving Oysters?

Everyone is familiar with that craving they occasionally get for a specific type of food. Whether it’s tomato by the gallon, a rare piece of ribeye steak, or simply cheese, these quirky cravings indicate that your metabolism is deficient. One of these cravings can sometimes turn into a desire for oysters, and this urge can mainly explain that due to the high amounts of vitamins and minerals oysters contain.

A lack of zinc in your diet will make you crave salty foods since it also causes you to have a decreased sense of taste. The fact that oysters also contain high amounts of zinc and two amino acids that might promote the feeling of an aphrodisiac might have an effect, too—resulting in you craving salty and zinc-based food.

What Is Umami?

Scientists have discovered five basic tastes; bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and umami, or savoriness. Umami is the savory taste you crave when you want a piece of meat or fish. It presents itself in meat broths, yeast extracts, cheeses, and fermented food items. But most commonly also in shellfish like oysters. It is part of why the oyster liquor is so alluring.

When you chew into an oyster, you release the natural liquor, which introduces your tastebuds to the sweetness, the saltiness, and the umami. It allows you to savor the shellfish’s aftertaste and experience the oyster’s whole journey. Where it came from, the richness and delicate differences in tastes of oysters from various parts of the country.

The Best Drinks To Pair With Your Oysters?

Some people may stick to their choice of white wine or champagne to pair with their oysters, while oyster lovers prefer a stout or a sherry with theirs. While none of these choices are wrong, it once again boils down to personal preference and what works best for your taste pallet.

  • A crisp, dry white wine like a Muscadet has always been one of the favorite pairings for oysters. The grape it’s made of has a strong undertone of melon which compliments the buttery brininess of the oyster.
  • Another coastal wine is the Sherry, made from palomino grapes that grow with a hint of sea breeze. This bone-dry wine is the crispest in its range. The acidic character in the whine adds to the oyster, much like what a squeeze of lime will do. It complements the brininess of the oyster and brings out the umami perfectly.
  • Champagne is another popular choice to pair with oysters. The dryer sort the variety of the wine, the better it reacts with the taste of the oyster and brings out the flavor and umami.
  • And then some connoisseurs prefer the taste of a stout with their oysters. The rich, creamy, malty taste of the stout complements the oysters’ raw, briny, salty flavor and simply enhances the experience.  
  • If you want to know what not to pair with your oysters, you should stay away from strong spirits as they do not tend to digest well with oysters and robs you of the experience of the full flavors of the oysters.

What Does Champagne Pair So Well With Oysters?

Champagne has been a delectable pairing with oysters for centuries, but why? It all comes down to the umami synergy between the two. It is recognized that amino acid in oysters named glutamate is the key to the taste sensation called umami.

Researchers have found that these amino acids are present in oysters and champagne. The dead yeast cells in the champagne cause a synergy with the muscles of the oysters that result in a combination of nucleotides which create the umami experience.

Are Oysters Good For You?

Oysters are a low-calorie and healthy food with plenty of micronutrients. From when oysters were a poor man’s food, oysters were known to be a rich food source filled with great vitamins and minerals. In addition to vitamin D, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium, to name but a few, oysters are also a valuable source of vitamin B12.

  • Vitamin B12 is vital in maintaining brain health associated with illnesses like dementia and depression.
  • With the abundance of vitamin D, copper, zinc, and manganese, oysters hold a rich benefit in the combat of osteoporosis. The micronutrients combined with calcium help prevent bone loss and are more effective than dietary supplements.
  • Your body only requires selenium in small quantities, but it is vital to fight off cardiovascular diseases, infertility, and decline in cognitive functions.

What Are The Dangers Of Eating Live Oysters?

Of course, there are natural risks with eating raw oysters. Eating contaminated oysters can cause symptoms to flare up within 12 to 72 hours. The oysters might have been harvested from waters naturally containing bacteria strains like the Vibrio bacteria. Some infections can cause only mild cases of diarrhea, vomiting, chills, fever, and skin lesions. Others tend to result in more severe illnesses, including bloodstream infections, which might prove fatal.

Unfortunately, there is no way of detecting whether your oysters are infected with a Vibrio bacterium. If you buy your oysters from a fish market, make sure it’s of a reputable source. Inspect their shell so that they’re not broken or damaged. Store them in cold or frozen temperatures, and do not buy them when they’re open. When you shuck your oysters, ensure they are glossy and wet. If they’re dry, it might mean they are dead or dying.

Conclusion

It is a breach of etiquette not to give that oyster a few chews when consuming this delicacy. Apart from that, you are doing yourself a massive disservice if you rob yourself of the intricate flavors and umami released when you chew your oysters. So, don’t be scared! Give that little blob a few bites and release the ocean experience with it!

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