THE PATENT OYSTER: LA LUCHA CONTINUA!


The hunt for the patent oyster goes on. In fact, it intensifies. On Sunday 11th September 2016 I bought at least two new oyster openers, possibly three, as seen below. Then on the 18th I bought another one, as seen even further below. Worse, the latest one is electric, so I now need not just patent oysters, but electric patent oysters.



The reason I say "possibly three" is that I don't know whether the tool with the big beak, the adjustable pivots and the split jaw opposite the beak is an oyster opener or not. It was sold to me (for a euro) as a tool for opening preserving jars, but I can't see how on earth it could do that either. My default assumption nowadays is that any completely incomprehensible tool that looks as if it could be used for opening oysters was probably designed to do exactly that. 

Anyway, I bought half a dozen oysters for 3€, call it £2.50 or $3.50, from the oyster-wallah in St. Jouin de Marnes on Saturday 17th, and had them for brunch. A bottle of Cava, shared with Frances, was near enough the same again at 2.99€ from Noz, the remainder store. She had a third of a packet smoked trout at 4.95€ the packet, because a few years ago she developed an allergy to oysters; call it 1.70€ for the trout . Add in some bread and butter and it was a pretty luxurious breakfast for two people for under 10€: maybe £8.50 or $11. It tasted all the better because I was feeling extremely virtuous, having cycled to St. Jouin and back, about 6.5km or close to 4 miles for the round trip. I now manage the trip about three times a week. Admittedly in 1978 I used to commute 8.4 miles (over 13 km) by bicycle each way, two to four times a week (I don't think I ever managed five), but that's a long time ago. Just under 40 years, which is a sobering thought. 

Back home, with the Cava opened, I started to attack the defenceless oysters. The tool with the big beak was no use, regardless of how I set the pivots, so I moved on to one of the pairs of bent scissors.At the vide-grenier I had already agreed to pay a euro for one, and then, after we'd discussed the best way to open oysters, he threw in the other for nothing. After all, we both reckoned that they were probably useless and that a plain oyster knife worked best. 

The idea is that you use the bend in the scissors to snip a bit out of the edge of the oyster, then force the blade(s) into the gap for the traditional push-slide-and-twiddle.To my astonishment, it worked first time. I forget which of the two tools I used first, but when I tried the other, it worked equally well. I was amazed. Perhaps I had found the patent oyster at last. I allowed myself the fleeting thought that because these were 6€ a dozen instead of the ones I usually buy at 7.50€ a dozen, they might be easier to open; but when I tried the third, I was disabused, The shell broke in half. This is the fundamental problem with any form of oyster opener that relies on damaging the shell: a damaged shell breaks easier. 

By the time I got to the seventh (my oyster-wallah works in bakers' half-dozens as well as bakers' dozens) I was using both the oyster-scissors and (yet again) a conventional oyster knife. The two together were a slight improvement on the oyster knife alone, but only very slight.

Then, the day after I bought the oysters, I found another electric oyster knife, as seen below. These work just like an ordinary oyster knife, with the addition of a high-speed but very low-magnitude vibration of the blade. The only reason I bought this one, for a thoroughly extravagant 5€ (given that I already had one), was the wooden oyster-holder that hooks over the edge of the table.



Next Saturday I'll have to buy half a dozen (=7) more oysters, probably the top of the line at 7.50€ a dozen. I'll try the new wooden oyster-holder with both the electric opener and a conventional oyster knife, and compare it with the alternatives, which are wrapping my hand in a towel or wearing a chain-mail gauntlet (honestly!). Or of course going bare-handed and risking gashing my hand if the knife slips. If and when I get around to it, I'll let you know the results.


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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016