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Today's quote:

Monday, December 15, 2014

He was a brave man who first ate an oyster

 

The practice of casting votes to send someone into exile in ancient Greece was done by writing the name of the person on the flat shell of an ostreon which is Greek for oyster. I hope I won't be ostracised for having never eaten an oyster.

I mean, it doesn't just arrive at the table on a plate of ice fait accompli but is in fact a living and breathing animal which is also hermaphrodite - changing throughout its lifetime from male to female and female to male. Some have even been observed, though rarely, to be both male and female at the same time.

Not everyone shares my aversion to these strange animals. Oysters were always a staple food of coastal Aboriginals, as can be seen by the number of 'middens', or mounds of shells, which look to an untrained eye like hills or natural cliff ledges since they are often covered with vegetation which have been carbon-dated to at least 6000 BC.

These middens were quickly exploited by the white man because lime, made from the ashes of oyster shells, was an important ingredient used for mortar in the buildings of the new and burgeoning colony. When it was discovered that the lime provided by live oysters was far superior (giving the lime more 'body') to that manufactured from empty shells, the natural oyster beds in Australia were soon depleted.

Today the Clyde River is one of Australia's major oyster-growing areas and I am literally surrounded by oysters. To paraphrase Shakespeare's 'Merry Wives of Windsor', the oyster is my world which, however, has never tempted me to gorge myself on this hapless mollusc. I leave this to our guests who regularly feast on the fattest growing on our jetty.