France

The Passion
18th & 19th Century
•• Coste
Belle Epoque
20th Century
Normandy
North-Brittany
South-Brittany
West-Central
Marennes-Oléron
••L'Affinage
••Green
••Claires
Arcachon
••Naissains
••Captage
Mediterranean

French Terms


The Passion
John McCabe

The French are remarkably passionate about oysters. The poet Léon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947) once wrote: "I love oysters. It's like kissing the sea on the lips." When that delicious mollusk is slurped off the half shell, the mind's eye of a true French oyster lover might conjure up images of the thousands of miles of beautiful French coastline. He or she may be feeling the cool Atlantic breeze, might be hearing the mouettes (sea gulls) bickering, and will surely be celebrating this precious moment in life to the fullest.

Slurping an oyster like a French oyster lover demands the acknowledgement of a most sensuous moment. This includes the full attention of all the taste buds in one's mouth. "L'arôme en bouche" ("mouth aroma") is what the French call it. This "mouth aroma" includes exercising one's retro-nasal passage to fully relish every nuance of the oyster's flavor. A French oyster lover will also sense the texture of the oyster meat, as oysters naturally differ in their firmness. He or she might possibly rave about the "goût de terroir", delighting in that unique quality only a specific oyster cultivation area in France can bestow upon its oysters. It is also a given to respect the French oystermen who have toiled long and hard to bring this passionate kiss of the sea upon this oyster lover's lips. Each oyster consumed is treated as a delicious individual - not ever to be considered a mass product (even though it is produced "en masse"). Much work has gone into producing this individual, in part evidenced by the shape of the half shell, which will almost always be ideally suited for slurping. Most oyster growers in France employ the tedious "rack and bag" cultivation method, which ultimately leads to nicely formed shell stock.

Hence, the French are not only true masters when it comes to growing fabulous oysters, they are also masters when it comes to enjoying oysters to the fullest!

Inset picture: French post card of the Belle Epoque. It is part of a most interesting (and amusing) four part series that can be viewed at the end of the Belle Epoque section.

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