How to eat an oyster: A lesson in slurping from PEI

With Prince Edward Island’s International Shellfish Festival in Charlottetown officially underway, we stop by Claddagh Oyster House for an etiquette lesson from the pros.

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A short food editor, Amy Rosen, and a tall chef, Michael Smith
A short food editor, Amy Rosen, and a tall chef, Michael Smith 

I just returned from a trip to beautiful Prince Edward Island, where the Canadian Tourism Commission hosted travel writers from around the world for the annual GoMedia conference that celebrates Canada and the stories within. As expected, I bumped into Chatelaine’s good friend chef Michael Smith, during a wonderful lobster boil party on the beach. But the seafood spree didn’t end there. I went out on a lobster boat for an afternoon (and caught a mackerel of all things), I ate lobster rolls, scallops, oysters, shrimp, chowder, bisque, and more lobster! There was even an oyster bar in the conference hall lobby for quick, slurps between industry meetings. (Note to self: Install oyster bar in Chatelaine Kitchen.)

Fresh lobster on the beach. What could be better?
Fresh lobster on the beach. What could be better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That said, as I went to meetings with briny hands and wet sleeves, I thought, perhaps I need a lesson on how to properly eat an oyster. So I head over to Claddagh Oyster House for a quick etiquette lesson from champion oyster shucker/manager Marc Dolan, whose father Liam Dolan just happens to be the Chairman of the PEI Shellfish Festival. Marc shucks up a plate for my travel writer-friend Carol and myself, along with some slurping tips.

This is THE place for delicious local oysters in Charlottetown.
This is THE place for delicious local oysters in Charlottetown.

1. I’ve always wondered if you’re supposed to stack the empty shells on a side plate or put them back on the ice. Turns out, the trick is that once you’re done, flip the oyster shells over so the cup side is up in the ice (meaning the shell’s upside down.) “Sometimes you’re looking at the oyster plate and it’s hard to see if you’re done. This way, with the dark shell, we can tell,” says Marc.

2. Thoughts on loading raw oysters with lemon, hot sauce, mignonette and hot sauce? “I’d rather see you put nothing on the oyster at all, and just enjoy the natural beauty of them. What the oyster’s meant to taste like.”

3. Slurp or chew? “I say chew, three or four times, then swallow. That way you get the full texture, the full flavours, the whole deal.”

4. Is using a fork or pushing the oyster with your finger wrong? “Not wrong, but if it’s shucked right you should be able to slurp it right back.”

5. Picking shell fragments off your tongue. A no-no? “Sometimes shell fragments do get in there; we try our best but sometimes little pieces get in there. It’s not your fault.”

Did you know that oysters are the only fresh seafood year round?
Did you know that oysters are the only fresh seafood year round?

Watch: Chatelaine Basics: How to shuck an oyster