Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher

I regret it took me so long to read this slim, delightful collection. M.F.K. Fisher is a very fine essayist, known for her food writing but a clever, funny, thoughtful voice in general. Warning: these delicious little pieces will make you hungry (if you have any taste at all for my favorite bivalve).

Obviously I read this book for my own essay about pearls and oysters which I’ve been working on for years… but it was an absolutely pleasure all around. Consider the Oyster has an original copyright date of 1941, and you can hear its era here and there; but overall, I think it ages really well.

Under 100 pages, and all about oysters. Short essays cover oyster sex; the seasonal nature (or not!) of edible oysters; a great many recipes from throughout history and around the world, with Fisher’s commentary; pearls; the oyster as aphrodisiac; regionalism; and more. Fisher is mostly but not entirely concerned with oysters as eaten by humans. Her writing is pithy, charming, humorous and very smart. She is a real personality, and I am a real fan.

Really, folks. What a short, accessible, but so clever little book this is. You should really pick it up, unless oysters totally disgust you, in which case you still should, because it will educate and probably humor you just the same.

Synchronicity: one of the back-cover blurbs here is credited to Clifton Fadiman, who is himself the subject of one of the next books on my list (for the Shelf), The Wine Lover’s Daughter by Anne Fadiman (author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which was one of the first books I personally recognized as “creative nonfiction” as I was beginning to conceive of the genre). Everything is circular. Like a pearl.

Rating: 8 pearls, naturally.

3 Responses

  1. I had a friend once who was Orthodox Jewish and kept strict Kosher, so he had never eaten any shellfish. I told him that oysters were quite a delicacy, but he had no desire to find out — he couldn’t get past their appearance.

    What he was curious about — though not enough to ever find out — was wine. He had a pretty good sense that Kosher wine was a narrow and unsatisfying category compared to the non-Kosher wines available.

    • Interesting. Keep your eyes open for an upcoming book about an unsatisfied curiosity about wine!! 🙂 Something for everyone here… what an interesting thing, the lifetime keeping of kosher (or whatever restriction that might leave you curious). I have a friend who was just recently post-Mormon when we met (she prefers that to “ex-Mormon”), and discovering coffee and alcohol and so much more. It was intriguing and new to see that happen in adulthood.

      Oysters are special like this: a turn-off in so many ways, mentally and according to their appearance. But some of the best eating out there, in my opinion.

      Always nice to have you, Anthony!

  2. […] Although I don’t read and think the way Levy does, I enjoyed reading her opinion – especially as she called in Fisher’s Consider the Oyster: […]

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