Cockle Shells

“A loaf of bread”, the Walrus said, “is chiefly what we need; Pepper and vinegar besides are very good indeed-Now if you’re ready, oysters dear, We can begin to feed. By Lewis Carroll in “Through the looking-glass.”

A couple of weeks ago I attended the annual Oyster Cloyster at the aquarium in Newport. It was great! I especially loved watching the jellyfish swim around but most of all I loved the food. It’s impressive how many creative ways oysters can be prepared. My favorite was the deep fried oyster ice cream made by Chef Charlie Bradford of Local Ocean Seafoods of Newport.

Oysters are probably the only acceptable things in our culture to eat while it is still alive. Eaten fresh from the shell and left unaltered by any lemon juice or hot sauce is the purest form of enjoyment for the oyster lover, and yes it is still alive as it slides down your throat. The forth century traveler and poet Ausonius liked them fresh from the sea, he describes his passion for this gastronomic experience, ” their sweet juice, mingled with a sensation of the sea. Or in the words of a modern oyster connoisseur, “You are eating the sea, that’s it; only the sensation of a gulp of sea water has been wafted out of it by some sorcery.

Not only has the oyster maintained its stance as a delicacy, but also it is still believed to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. The origin of the word aphrodisiac is from oysters. According to Greek myth, Aphrodite, the goddess of romantic love, rose from the ocean on the shell of and oyster. Upon emerging she immediately gave birth to Eros, the God of erotic love.

Casanova, the infamous lover, reportedly threw back his head and bravely swallowed 12 dozen oysters a day to keep up his strength. There is absolutely no truth whatsoever to the power of an oyster to arouse or enhance performance in ones love life. This is a myth.

Oysters are interesting little creatures; they breathe much like fish using both gills and a mantle. The mantle is lined with small, thin walled blood vessels, which extract oxygen from the water and expel carbon dioxide. A small three chambered heart lying under the abductor muscle pumps colorless blood, with its supply of oxygen to all parts of the body. At the same time a pair of kidneys located on the underside of the muscle purifies the blood of any waste products it may have collected. What I find odd is that although oysters do have two separate sexes, they change sexes a few times during their life span. So one day it’s Chris and maybe the next it’s Crystal.

Pearls are formed when foreign material is trapped in the shell, the oyster responds to the irritation by producing nacre, a combination of calcium and protein. The nacre coats the foreign material and over a period of time produces a pearl.

Nutritionally, oysters are one of the most well balanced and complete foods containing protein, carbohydrates and lipids. The National Heart and Lung Association suggests eating oysters if you need to eat foods low in carbohydrates. Oysters are also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, D thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. Four or five medium size oysters supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, and phosphates.

Personally, to the dismay of the oyster purest, I love to eat oysters raw, fried, baked, barbecued, as ice cream, or as with today’s recipe, in oyster stuffing. I have been making this stuffing for 35 years, I learned it from my first real boyfriend, and he is also the one who taught me to poor beer all over the turkey. This was a memorable experience for me, as I had never before seen any one cook a turkey, I was fascinated.
Drunk Turkey with Oyster Stuffing

You will need a turkey!

1 quart of any kind of beer
1 pound of butter
1 jar small oysters
5 stalks celery
1 medium onion
1 chopped granny smith apple
1 batch of dried out jiffy corn bread, (bake the day before
½ loaf of whole wheat bread, dried
½ a loaf of white bread, dried
1 batch of day old dry corn bread
Salt pepper and 1 TBLS. Poultry seasoning and some fresh sage

Wash the bird and remove paper sack containing neck and back, save for gravy or feed to seagulls.

Separate the skin around cavity opening and stuff globs of butter between breast meat and skin.
Preheat the oven to 500.
Meanwhile in a large pan cook 1 pound of country sausage, drain and set aside.
Sauté celery, onion oysters, Mix up all of the bread in huge bowl, after cooking oysters etc. set aside to cool.
After it is cooled put it in a bowl and mix it all together, (I use my hands).
Stuff bird; now pour beer over bird, cover with foil, and bake at 500 for first hour then lower temperature to 350.
Baste the bird every 45 minutes or so. Remove foil last 45 minutes to brown and remember to let it rest out of the oven for 30 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!