With our 41st wedding anniversary on the horizon, I thought I’d return to my series of posts talking about memorable moments in our 40 years of marriage. Of course, there are way more than 40 which makes whittling it down so difficult. But most of them seem to revolve around people, places and food. This one’s no different.
Oysters tend to divide people. You either love them or hate them. Interestingly many of those who hate them have never tried them. Before our move to France, we were in that latter camp. As children I ate a lot of fish at home, and out in restaurants, but I can never recall either of my parents eating oysters even though they both loved shellfish.
Every New Year’s Party we attended at the InterAlpen Hotel, there would be a midnight buffet with a large table groaning with oysters. While others feasted greedily, we never partook, feeling they looked far too much like slime. On business trips to Paris, when colleagues headed off for oysters, I went elsewhere. I just couldn’t understand the attraction.
When we upped and left London for France and my beloved resigned from his role working for a German company, his secretary organised his leaving present. Dinner for two at The Chantecler restaurant at the Hotel Negresco in Nice. She’d arranged it via her brother who was the newly-appointed curator of the Villa Massena – Musee d’Art et d’Histoire which is next door to the hotel whose pink dome and overblown wedding cake facade dominates the Promenade des Anglais.
Not long after we’d moved to France, we booked a table for two for dinner at the Negresco. The restaurant is highly rated and rather formal, but in a good way. The ameuse-geule of the set meal was a large oyster, glistening in its shell. For a moment we just looked at the oyster and panic reigned. How were we going to get out of this? Should we just leave them? Or maybe I could slip them into my bag? Difficult with waiting staff outnumbering guests.
Finally we decided that 60 million French people couldn’t be wrong. We closed our eyes and allowed the oyster to slide out of its shell and into our mouths, we slowly chewed, tasted and finally swallowed.
Wow! That was not what we’d expected. The flesh was plump and sweet with just a hint of brine. It was delicious. We’re now fervent converts and through extensive testing have decided which ones we prefer, though frankly we pretty much like all of them. No trip to Paris is ever complete without oysters and champagne. It’s our favourite meal for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, or any other time of the year. And, to think, we’d wasted 50+ years of oyster quaffing because we didn’t like the look of them. It’s so true, never judge a book by its cover!