Oysters in La Tremblade, Charente-Maritime, FR (2014-08-22)

Travel & food stories: Oléron Oysters


Oléron oysters is about how a bad night turned… 

Walking along a long pier to get to my boat from horrible Royan to the lovely island of Oleron I find a mall of oyster producers/vendors. I am carrying too much baggage to do my usual trick of walking up and down and comparing offers to finally not buy at all. Plus I am tired from a night without sleep and from Walking Home going on for close to five months by now.

But I am also in a good mood as I am about to spend a few days with la mer.

So I walk up to the first stall and ask with a shy smile in my best French: “Can I buy just one oyster? And can you open it right here for me to eat?”

The vendor, a young guy in his mid-twenties, with a face that looks like years on the water, the sun on his skin, wind and salt in his hair, smiles back: “Of course! Which one would you like?”

I had not considered that question. To me, an oyster is an oyster is an oyster is something I usually can’t afford to buy.

I shrug and start looking at the prices.

“Do you eat oysters often?”

I shake my head. “Never. This is my first time. But I’d really like to try one.”

He nods. “Then you should have this one. It’s the best.”

While the left side of my brain is trying to figure how much this is going to cost me, the right side has already instructed the mouth to say: “OK. If it’s the best…”

A proud oyster fisher is joint by his wife and a daughter who can barely walk. He begins to explain proudly: “We have only just opened the business. But we hope to sell to some larger companies.”

I nod, intently watching as he takes one of the larger oysters, opens it with his knife, cleans it a bit, and loosens the muscle from the shell. He then leans over the counter to hand it to me.

I look at it, not sure how to proceed.

He lifts his hand to his mouth and motions I should simply let the oyster slide into my mouth.

The moment the fluid and the slightly gooey mass touch the inside of my mouth it’s like I had the sea inside me. In a good sense. It’s fresh. It’s salty, but not too much. I try to chew but the delicacy has disappeared down my esophagus before I have time to think about it.

I am grinning with my whole body.

When I pull out my wallet the oyster vendor shakes his head. “I invite you. I am happy that you liked my oysters.”

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