The French do not eat a set Christmas Dinner in the same way as many of the English. But they do have some favourite celebratory dishes and two of the most popular at Christmas or New Year (St Sylvestre in France) are Foie Gras a lovely dish very misunderstood in the Anglo world and oysters.
I love oysters, every holiday I will enjoy them at some point. The taste of oysters varies between species and the terroir of the sea. The taste can be likened to a concentrate of the sea, edged with iodine and minerals. Enjoying oysters requires practise, they must be as fresh as possible and I think at first eaten frequently enough to get pass the initial feelings about their texture and how they look. Ideally the consumer should happily be able to squeeze the oyster into the roof of their mouth to get as much juice as possible from the bivalve and feel entirely comfortable.
Oysters used to be very common and affordable in the UK, often seen as a food of the poor. The famous dish, Beef and oyster pie was an example of oysters being used to bulk out the more expensive meat. Now in the UK oysters can cost 50p to £1 each, and the restaurant price is truly comic.
When I visited France for holidays I would as a matter of urgency visit the nearest oyster stall, often at my port of entry and consume a dozen or more standing at the stall, often to the delight and amusement of the stall holder. I must admit that a dozen plus oysters for breakfast was a bit hardcore!
Of course it follows that eating oysters in France is tremendously frugal compared to the price inflation they are subject to when crossing la Manche and the fact that oyster are at their best served simply makes them even more frugal
Oyster recipe’s abound but personally I am a bit of a purist preferring just the oyster, may be a bit of lemon of a little red wine vinegar and chopped shallot.
There is a lot more to know about oysters, Ken Broadhurst who lives very close to me in St Aignan has just written a great post about oysters which I highly recommend, the post can be found here.