This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.
It’s Valentine’s Day, love birds, and I wish for you Sam Cooke crooning “For Sentimental Reasons” while you and your main squeeze canoodle (canoodle is a word my grandmother used liberally to refer to any number of un-Presbyterian acts), diamonds, chocolate, roses, major pair bonding…and oysters. You choose the order.
If it up to me I’d say: Oysters first. But I used to think they were revolting. The lane to my grandparents’ farm on the Eastern Shore was paved with oyster shells and on moonlit nights the path to the dock would shine pearlescent, and I’m old enough to remember seeing under sail the fleet of skipjacks at Tilghman Island, a thing of 19th century Americana. But, eating them? Raw? They were a not-very-convincing step up from snot. Quivering gray masses slurped up enthusiastically on special occasions by the grown-ups in my family who seemed to have no sense.
Then I had them with bacon. Good Lord, the sky opened up and trumpets sounded. I had seen the light. There could be no turning back from this love of the bivalve. They are the taste that “launched a thousand ships,” forget Helen of Troy’s beautiful face.
And I learned what they do for the Chesapeake Bay. One single of these goodly creatures (Crassostrea virginica, if we’re being formal, but I just call them My New Best Friend) can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Watch this time lapse footage of them doing their thing and that you’ll want to kiss one. Thank you, mollusks, thank you oyster rehabilitation programs.
“Aphrodisiac” means “pertaining to Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love. It seems fitting that she came to us out of the water on the half shell.
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