A Gift Of The Ocean: The Oyster & Its Shell

Concha De Ostra:  The Oyster & Its Shell
Concha De Ostra: The Oyster & Its Shell

The oyster shell. Rock hard style. Layers and layers of outer style paired with the inside treasure of culinary delight. Found in shallow waters throughout the world’s oceans, the rough and hard shell of highly calcified style serves as a natural element in decor and a coveted culinary delight with the savory morsel tucked inside. The neutral color palette of the shell itself is certainly worthy of our attention…

Found in 17th century English, the actual word “Oyster” comes from Old French “Oistre” taken from Latin “Ostrea”. “Ostrea” is the feminine form of “Ostreum” which derives from the Greek word “Ostreon” (oyster) and “Osteon” (bone). Who knew? From a distinct group of bivalve molluscs, oysters are members of the family Ostreidae which live in marine habitats in large colonies referred to as “beds” or “reefs”. Some of these edible oysters are termed “Belon oyster”, “Eastern Oyster”, “Olympia Oyster”, “Pacific Oyster” and the “Sydney Rock Oyster”. Rock, indeed. Of note, these edible oysters do not include the ‘pearl oysters’ which are mainly harvested for the pearl that is produced within the mantle of the shell. The oysters I refer to are the rock-hard white & gray outer shell that gleans an inside of porcelain white. That paired with a spotted distinction to the interior shell of layered style. Nature’s beauty from the oceans…

Nature's Beauty:  The Oyster Shell
Nature’s Beauty: The Oyster Shell

Oysters are commonly served raw or cooked. Considered a delicacy, the memories I have of the “American Mussel” are deeply ingrained as a part of my past life of growing up on the shores of the Long Island Sound. In fact, having worked through my high school and college years at a quaint seafood restaurant (“The Sea Shanty”) within walking and “docking” distance from the historic harbor town of Northport, New York, I learned quickly the art of “Shucking” an oyster shell. Boating travelers from the shores of Connecticut and beyond knew the route from the dock to the restaurant well. Indeed, I have seen many oysters “Shucked”. Alas, at the hands of the chef, that is. Many a platter of ice-chilled oysters, shining on white ceramic plates with lemon wedges tucked amongst them, were served by my hands to the waiting and anticipating patrons. Of course, included was the expected condiment of cocktail sauce and clarified butter in which to drench or dip these morsels from the ocean. (And of the deep fried oyster and its textural pairing of culinary bliss? Certainly a variation worth mentioning.) Of note, the various “Shucking” styles attest to the diverse ways to serve an oyster. Of course, it is said that the need for several methods of shucking is a necessity when a wide variety of oysters with different physical characteristics abound in the cool waters. Of interest, there are considered to be four sides to an oyster referred to as the “top shell”, “bottom shell”, the “lip” or “bill” and the “hinge”. Again, who knew? To an oyster shucker, these “sides” draw their attention when preparing to “shuck” an ice-chilled oyster. In addition, the observation of additional characteristics, such as shape, size, weight, cleanliness and shell quality assists in determining the best approach to “Shuck” an oyster. Culinary skills certainly abound with this shell of solid structure…

The "Shucked" Oyster:  A Culinary Wonder
The “Shucked” Oyster: A Culinary Wonder

However it is shucked and served, perhaps the unveiling of the briny, sweet, rich and flavorful morsel tucked inside is not for everyone. Perhaps beyond the daunting task of opening the shell to unlock the savory jewel inside or the mere appearance of the plump inner delicacy is enough to halt one without an adventurous palate or one who has not grown up in an environment of the ocean’s bounty. Completely understandable. That said, however, the appreciation of the shell can be had by all

Decorative Function:  The Oyster Shell
Decorative Function: The Oyster Shell
Rock Hard Style:  The Appeal Of The Oyster Shell
Rock Hard Style: The Appeal Of The Oyster Shell
The Appeal Of "Oyster Shells"
The Appeal Of “Oyster Shells”

Consider the gift of the Oyster. “Concha de Ostra”. With a natural presence from the ocean, the texture and appearance of the shell provides a neutral color with which to incorporate into our spaces. Harkening the life from the earth’s world under the ocean’s waters, the shell provides distinctive interest in our interiors throughout the year. A natural element of distinction and a gift of the ocean, indeed…

Kristin

“It had that texture possessed by the rough edge of an oyster shell, where the creature also has built up its coating layer by layer.” – Will Davenport, “The Painter”

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