The first raw oyster I ever ate was straight out of an ice laden cooler in the heart of Portland. I had ventured into the Flying Fish Co. store by way of a farmer’s market on the street. A beagle inspired. He was old, graying, and asleep. After some struggle he slowly stood on all fours, it was painful to watch. He then walked away. Not even one good pat of the hand. On wood planks his full crescent claws chattered. I walked up and past him and in.
I saw OYSTERS scrawled on a blue and white cooler, and was hooked. No pun, just hungry for something different, something fresh.
Having worked in a meat and seafood department of a co-op in Uptown (The Wedge), Minneapolis, MN. I knew it was good. I knew what good was.
How fresh, I said.
Caught and brought in this morning.
I thought for moment, sheer amazement.
Are they any good raw?
Yeah… Delightful, I have them every morning for breakfast…
I explained, I have to be in a wedding tomorrow, a buddy of mine is getting married-hitched, and I can’t be sick. He looked at me and without blinking, he said most of the food in the store is sushi grade, the oysters are fresh, and he expressed, with gratitude, that he would take one with me. He had a knife ready to shuck. He said ‘You buy me one, and I got yours’. We were in this party together.
So I want to believe you.
He took three from the cooler, at first, after fidgeting through the ice. My girl watched from the side. He took a big square paper towel off the roll and set it down on the counter, two rectangular sections. Near the register and all, aside the dollar I put down in the pot. On top of this on the counter, more than thoughts, more than right now. A man wearing a light colored plaid shirt walked from behind taking account, he grabbed at the free smoked salmon sample and walked on.
The man behind the counter brought up a small straight knife. If you do this, he said looking directly at me, seriously, wear gloves. He stuck the knife in and something popped. The shell broke, he cracked and twisted the obscure oval shaped hardness in his hand, sliding one half off, and holding the other with the white slimy oyster meat exposed to the light of the room. He motioned with the knife that this one was his. He then repeated the first act, never popping the third though. He said tilt it back and whatever falls in your mouth is good to eat.
Most stuff in here is sushi grade.
The white mussel fell into my mouth, pausing for a moment, a chew, a taste, recognition, and then slid down my throat.
This is what the ocean tastes like. I was enlightened. So many with fear would miss out.