Oysters have always been associated with love - according to myth, when Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, sprang forth from the sea on an oyster shell. Roman emperors paid for oysters by their weight in gold, and legendary lover Casanova reputedly devoured four dozen every morning. There may be many reasons for the supposed romantic properties of this most slippery of bivalves. Oysters are full of zinc, which modern medical research has linked with improving male potency - it is said to increase testosterone production. Oysters are a pretty healthy option for everyone - they're a valuable source of other minerals, such as calcium and copper, and are also rich in iodine and low in cholesterol. All oysters are farmed, but still there are two major types of oysters: native and pacific. The native flat-shelled oysters are seasonal, and are available between September and April and take longer, up to six or seven years, to reach maturity. The more disease-resistant rock or Pacific oysters have a frillier shell, less substantial flesh, can be eaten all year round and mature in two to three years. Pacific oysters come originally from Japan, and are the most widely cultured oyster in the world. They're supposed to be creamier than the Atlantic oyster. They say you shouldn't you eat oysters in May, June, July and August. Why is that and what happens then? Oysters spawn during the summer. Spawning takes a lot of energy. During reproduction, an oyster consumes the energy stored in its plump little body to aid in its heroic and taxing effort. The result is a tired, flaccid, mushy oyster with a milky appearance. In actuality, it's not that you can't or shouldn't eat healthy oysters in the summer. Or that you'll die from eating one. It's that they're kind of busy and, and as such, not at their prime for eating.
It was the legendary Auguste Escoffier, chef at the Savoy at the turn of the 20th century, who first introduced the custom of serving oysters on crushed ice as self-contained little packages with their own exquisite salty juice. So what is the best way to eat oysters? If you really want to taste and appreciate the beauty of fresh oysters, you should eat them naked. That is to say, to slurp oysters straight off the half-shell unencumbered and free of any accoutrements such as squeeze of lemon, strings of fresh-grated horseradish, etc.
Here's a simple method that is a fairly foolproof way to eat oysters. Using a shellfish fork, make sure the oyster is completely detached from its shell. While admiring the beauty, grace and freshness of my oyster gently move it around a little to ascertain that it's ready to be slurped. Grasp the oyster shell comfortably, cradling it in the nook between your thumb and first two fingers. Look for the best "sipping lip" on the shell. Lift the shell to your lips and, in one swift move, tip shell up and slurp both the oyster and juices into your mouth. Don't try to swallow your oyster whole. While oysters don't require vigorous chewing, like squid or octopus, they do need to be caressed a few times. As you do this, you may notice other flavors (cucumber, melon, toasted almonds) emerge. As you eat oysters think of the ocean. Savor the high note of briny freshness.