good morning. Melissa Clark has an excellent story about oysters in The Times today and she does a great job of explaining why they taste different, depending on where they are grown and how they are raised, despite generally being the same species. Known as “merroir,” the concept is a picky Portmanteau that exploits the wine world’s concept of “terroir,” or the taste delivered to wine from the land where its grapes were grown. (Earth in French: terre. Sea in French: mer.) Merroir is real. Eat six oriental oysters from six different farms and you will taste them easily.
Which is so much fun at the oyster bar but even more so at home. Uh I know. People are upset about opening oysters. But once you get used to it, this technique will pay off for the rest of your life. And all it takes is practice.
My advice in this regard: buy twenty oysters and open six of them as a snack. I’m done with the day. (Put unopened oysters in a bowl in the refrigerator. They’ll be fine there for four or five days, and longer if you know when they were harvested.) The next evening, open another six oysters. Then on the third night, see how easy it is to unlock the last dozen. Wasn’t it easy? Repeat the entire exercise in a week or two. But if it was easy? Repeat the exercise in one night, open 24 oysters and declare yourself a champion. (If you’re afraid of your non-dominant hand, which you’ll use to hold the bivalve in place, drop it at your local kitchen supply store and invest in some chain mail or cut-resistant clam gloves.)
Once you have that, you can start researching the merroir on your own at home—by pairing Peekos and Gliddens, for example—and discussing what you taste as you eat. I don’t like to put much on my oysters except for the occasional sprinkle of lemon juice, but if you want a Mignonette or cocktail sauce, Melissa has you covered. And she has a nice recipe for Rockefeller oysters (above) too.
Now, it’s not about chafing dishes or bamboo steamers, but a check out the motorbike frog in southwest Australia. There is an audio clip at the bottom of the page confirming: It sounds like a motorcycle changing gears on the highway.
Lijaya Mishan pointed me in the direction of a new short story by Sacha Fletcher on Granta, “Double Date”. I’m glad she did.
Henry Grabar looked at America’s addiction to highway speed in Slate, a revealing read. (Among other things: State soldiers drive really fast on the highway because it’s the only way to do the job. If they drive 55 cars, we’ll have nothing but traffic. Nobody wants to overtake a cop.)
Finally, do you remember the zinnias? Melissa Kirsch alerted me to this fascinating story about a secret Zen library inside a hollow book in the Victoria Library on Vancouver Island in Canada. It’s by Tori Marlan for the Capital Daily of Victoria. Enjoy it, and I’ll be back on Friday Christmas Eve!