I could not resist. Many know that for the past year or so I’ve been a de facto vegetarian. I do believe it’s OK to eat meat – I simply do not want to consume the hormones and antibiotics that swim in our meat pool. I’m for healthy happy animals. Regarding seafood, I’ve been on the fence. Overfishing is a big issue, and lots of species (other than the ones being targeted) are being annihilated in the process. As I’ve not quite made up my mind, I have simply abstained from eating all animals this year. Until Friday.
A guy in my yoga class, someone I’ve seen once or twice a week for over a year but have never actually spoken to, mentioned to our teacher after class that there was an event at his restaurant the next day. Turns out he’s a chef at one of my favorite wine-tapas-y-bars in town, Basta, and they were flying in crates of oysters direct from France. Free-for-all true-blue French oysters, best in the world, from 8 am until they run out. I knew I would be there.
So after an excruciatingly long wine tasting (hot, little business, new high heeled boots), I walked about 20 minutes until I reached the Carmel Market area, a strange yet fitting location for this bistro. Friday is my favorite day in the shuk – I can get the best deals – everyone wants to get rid of their produce before the Sabbath starts – and I know where the best vendors are. 10 minutes later, laden with all the fruit and veg I’ll need for a month – and I’m at Basta – looking at this:
France and oysters go way, way back. From Roman times when France was known for the best oysters, all the way to modernity when France became the first country in the world to start cultivating oysters on a large commercial scale – the French take their oysters and oyster culture seriously. This fantastic website I discovered, devoted entirely to oysters, quotes the poet Léon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947): “I love oysters. It’s like kissing the sea on the lips.” So here I was, thrilled beyond belief to be sitting at this charming Tel Aviv bistro – meters from the raging-pre-Shabbat shuk, (the vendors now screaming and lowering their prices every few minutes), about to consume these gorgeous, rare gems – about to plant a slobbering wet kiss on the lips of the sea.
To tell you the truth, that expression is bang-on. I’ve always told my curious kosher-keeping friends that eating oysters is like eating a mouthful of the sea. But kissing the sea – on the lips – oh my – that injects the sexy passion into the act of eating oysters. It feels so natural, feeling the cold, creamy, briny loveliness slide into your mouth. It’s like French-kissing your food. A food that is the embodiment of French-kissing. But cold. Ice cold. Weird, I know.
And so, my friends, the time has come, to talk of cultural oyster references. The first that comes to mind is, of course, Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from Alice Through the Looking-Glass. The most famous stanza:
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
However, my most favorite oyster scene is from Tampopo. Please excuse the inane “commentary” from the person who posted the video onto YouTube. Just watch the movie.
Ahh! So damned good.