Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.
Legend has it that famed 18th-century Italian sex-doer Giacomo Casanova started each morning with a heaping helping of 50 oysters to fortify himself for long days spent writing and gambling and boning. With his bivalve-based virility, he claimed to have bedded about 130 women in his lifetime, which is less than Gene Simmons (4,800) and Wilt Chamberlain (20,000) but still an impressive number.
Since then, oysters have been widely touted as an aphrodisiac — magical molluscs with the ability to send you into a crazed, libidinous frenzy. Granted, this isn’t backed up by “science”, and I personally don’t have any sexual associations with them because almost all of my oyster experiences have been with my family who, don’t get me wrong, are all very nice people, but I just don’t think of them that way. As it is Horny Week here at the Cut, though, it was suggested I put their aphrodisiac qualities to the test by making a horny meal for one (myself). And since eating, being alone, and feeling aroused are some of my favorite activities, I was more than happy to oblige.
My friends and family, however, were concerned for my safety.
“Do you remember that time our friends tried to open oysters with a screwdriver?” my mother said on the phone one day. “They cut their hands up and there was blood everywhere.”
“Can’t you seriously injure yourself shucking oysters?” my roommate asked.
I was unfazed. If anything, the risk of bloodshed made it an even more exhilarating undertaking.
Before I bought my oysters, I had to get an oyster shucking knife — a thick, dull, stubby little blade that you insert into the back hinge of an oyster and twist to pop them open. Some of the knives on Amazon also came with special gloves to protect you from accidentally avocado-handing yourself, but I decided I’d just use a dish towel like some kind of sexy, bad-boy shucker with a casual, devil-may-care attitude about the tendons in their hands. Very horny and cool.
In addition to the oysters, I decided to round out my feast of aphrodisiacs with Champagne and chocolate, a decadent Cathy cartoon of a meal.
Unfortunately, the weather was not willing to cooperate with my plan to sit outside and lavish in the afternoon sunshine/bleed outdoors. When I left the office to go pick up fresh oysters, I made it approximately four feet before the heavens opened up and released a deluge onto my head. By the time I sloshed into the seafood section at Whole Foods, I looked like a 5’9” pile of the hair and gunk you pulled out of the shower drain. I ordered a dozen of the Cotuit oysters because, at $1.75 an oyster they seemed fairly affordable and also they were the only variety they had. Could I eat a dozen oysters by myself? Let’s not play coy. Absolutely I could.
According to the most relaxing sentence I have ever read in my life, courtesy of the website oysterguide.com, Cotuit oysters are from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and “come from a clear, cold cove matted with verdant eelgrass and bountiful with a particular algae that turns the oyster shells gray,” and are famous for their “bright and briny flavor.” (Are you not incredibly soothed?)
Also at Whole Foods, I picked up a shallot and some red wine vinegar to make a mignonette sauce. I figured by the time I got back to the office, the rain would have stopped and I could enjoy my oysters in slightly damp peace. But it hadn’t, and since I wasn’t sure what my long, hot subway commute home would do to a dozen fresh, delicate oysters, I decided to shuck them in a decidedly unsexy locale — the office kitchen.
With apologetic smiles and awkward half-laugh-shrugs to everyone who came in to buy their end-of-day vending-machine snacks, I chopped up the shallot and put it in a bowl with the red wine vinegar for the mignonette. Next, I took out the oysters, and using my oyster knife and a promotional blanket to protect my hand, got to work.
I had watched several videos of expert shuckers who, after placing the oyster flat side up, inserted the knife into the notch at the bottom and, with a couple of small, quick flicks of their wrist, popped them open. My first shucking was slightly more involved. I placed the knife at the base of the oyster’s hinge, as instructed, and tried to shove it in. After a few moments of desperate twisting and jamming, all I had managed was to chip off a significant amount of shell, and to nick my knuckle. I wondered if Casanova had gone through this every morning, and realized he probably had someone do it for him.
Because it’s an office kitchen and not a place people generally go to cram a dozen oysters down their gullet in an attempt to get horny, people filtered in and out as I struggled. After watching me jam at the shell ineffectively for a couple of minutes, a co-worker took the oyster and knife from me, and in approximately three seconds, popped it open.
“How did you do that?!” I demanded.
“Try inserting it slightly to the side of the hinge, not right in the middle, and aim down,” he explained. A woman buying seltzer water glanced curiously at us, then shook her head and left.
I grabbed another oyster from the rapidly melting bag of ice, and followed his instructions. Dipping the knife in slightly to the left of the mollusk’s hinge, I gave it a couple of twists, and with a tiny sigh that I probably imagined, the top part of the shell separated from the bottom. I dragged the knife under the top shell to cut the muscle that connects the oyster to the shell, and triumphantly presented my first shucked oyster. I did not feel horny, but I felt accomplished, which was also nice, and certainly more office-appropriate.
As I shucked the rest, people stopped in to sample the oysters, Champagne, and chocolate. The consensus was that it was hard to feel randy in an office kitchen, no matter how many aphrodisiacs you eat.
“I cannot think of a less arousing environment,” one woman noted.
In the end, I ate probably six of the oysters, and though they were briny and delicious, and the mignonette added a sharpness and complexity to them, at no point did I feel turned on. Maybe I simply didn’t consume enough of them to feel like Casanova, or maybe it was the fact that I was just a few hundred feet from HR, who knows. In any case, I was still thrilled with my newfound shucking abilities. Even if they don’t make you want to hump everything that moves, eating oysters feels wonderfully indulgent — there’s something visceral about gulping down a creamy, slimy little mollusk straight from its shell. Add in some chocolate and Champagne, and you have an absolutely great meal to enjoy by yourself, horny or not.
My report card
Taste: A ++
My Overall Performance: C