Thursday, January 20, 2011

Locavore No More

P.E.I. oysters have been my downfall at trying to eat locally. I've been on an oyster jag lately. Buying them in bulk and secretly shucking them with wild abandonment when no one's around. (When you're alone, there's no need to share; such despicable behavior!) The only problem with shucking your own oysters is that it is virtually impossible to resist devouring them the instant they are freed from their razor-sharp shells. I shuck and wolf, shuck and wolf, shuck and wolf. Screaming with delight at each mouthful. It's gluttonous behavior.

But I swear I can smell the very air of P.E.I. with each delicious morsel. And that is half of the draw. Perhaps it's a longing for the cool spring season and sea that has brought this on. The indoor garden has not satiated this longing. (Note the potatoes finally rearing their heads in that bag of soil.)

The salty flavor of the oyster's liquor reminds me of the red roads, Cavendish Beach dunes and the white lighthouses of Prince Edward Island. A truly magical island off the east coast of Canada.

When I was just out of my teens, my brother and I drove across eight states and provinces to visit a relative who had bought a home in the tiny village of Bedeque. Once there, we signed on to pick oysters for some much-needed cash. We lasted about two hours. It was pouring rain, cold, miserable and the oyster beds in the frigid Atlantic waters had already been picked over. We were paid $7 for 2 pecks. I recall us looking at each other and wondering just how much a peck was, until a large crate was set in front us. We left with a mere $15 between us, and I stayed away from oysters for many years after that.

Until 1986, when at a reception for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards (Canada's version of the Tonys) my interest was revived. I had produced a couple of plays that were nominated and felt quite righteous in my entitlement to graze at the buffet of the catered event. William Lord, then Theatre Officer for the Ontario Arts Council, accompanied me as we shamelessly plundered the very neglected oyster bar for the better part of twenty minutes. We gorged ourselves silly. You can eat a lot of oysters in twenty minutes, believe you me, and we both kept exclaiming that this was utterly criminal behavior. Criminal, criminal, criminal! Yet no one stopped us, nor seemed at all interested in the oyster table as we continued on. I guess oysters still bring out the food-felon in me. It's hard to be a locavore.

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