The Big Oyster

by Mark Kurlansky

While the book is subtitled, History on the Half Shell, it is more appropriately narrowed down to History of the Half Shell and New York, as that’s where the book’s focus is.  Despite the fact that mankind has eaten oysters all over the world, likely for thousands of years, that part of history is only mentioned in passing.   I would have enjoyed the book more had it taken a broader view of oyster and mankind.

I am not sure why I picked up this book, as I have stopped eating oyster after learning the fact that the animal is still alive until my teeth chop it to pieces.  I guess I just couldn’t resist a foodie book. 

The book does provide some interesting knowledge.  Such as how inexpensive oysters were in those days.  For the price of 6 cents you could have all-you-can-eat oysters in the 19th century.  The price of one hot dog could buy you a whole platter of half shells.  The price of one strawberry a bucket.  And caviar was very lowly too.  They were used in bars, as free snacks for people to encourage them to drink more…

Another thing that definitely stays with me is how much man has polluted the environment.  It was amazing to read the accounts written by the first Europeans who arrived in New York.  The beautiful nature, the abundance of flora and fauna.  And in such a short time, the harbor was so polluted that when people try to plant some oysters back into the bay, they discovered, two weeks later, that not only the oysters died, their shells were eroded by the acid.  Urgh. 

Published in: on January 25, 2008 at 4:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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