I just finished an interesting article in the April 10, 2006 issue of The New Yorker called "On the Bay: Building a Better Oyster" by Bill Buford, where he follows the life of an oysterman in Long Island. In it, there were few differing perspectives on how to consume oysters. The oysterman of the story, Mike Osinski, says "you work it with your tongue... but you'd never sink your teeth into it." Sandy Ingber, the chef of the Grand Central Oyster Bar says "'slurp, never chew'... But he admitted that he took a discreet bite when testing a new product". Eric Ripert, the chef of Le Bernardin, when asked if he chews, answered "a couple times. Actually, may I make a confession? I chew once." And an oyster cultivator, when asked answered "yes, I chew. I've always chewed. If you swallow, you can't taste the oyster. If you swallow, all oysters are the same."
I'm in the school of chew. Chew a lot, in fact. Chewing = enjoying to me. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I don't think people in Japan would simply swallow an oyster. Enjoying the flavors of the meat and innards is the pleasure of eating oysters. I suppose it's like enjoying the innards of crab or lobsters (which most Americans don't, apparently).
So, I'm wondering what most people's standard practice is with oysters? Chew, swallow, other? Just curious.
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