Hello Oysters

Or the corny ramblings of a traveler

I have never quite understood the phrase “The world is your oyster.” Perhaps, my first experience eating an oyster still sticks too strongly into my mind to make the connection between possibility and slimy shellfish. My father likes to tell a story about his grandfather who loved oysters. His grandfather loved them very much, but his frugality kicked in when over the years the price of oysters rose. Set in his ways, he refused to buy them. Nevertheless, my father continued to purchase them for him every time he went to visit him. Grandfather would ask the price with a scowl and my father lied to him every time. Then he would smile and open the jar offering to share with no one. The love of oysters was somehow passed down through the generations perhaps through a particular gene yet to identified. The shellfish gene? My chromosome make up, however, was not graced with this particular gene. So the first time I took a bite of the raw oyster, it was gritty and slimy and unknown. To be fair, I only ate one on a dare and for a monetary reward from my father who was so sure I would just love them as his father and fathers before had.

Years passed before I tried my luck again. Maturity begged that I try them again. Maybe I just needed to grow up a bit to appreciate the taste. So this time, I grabbed a cracker and some cocktail sauce to mask some of the sandy slime. It still wasn’t a culinary miracle, but I tolerated it. I think I even ate two that time. As the years have went on since then I have had them on multiple occasions some of which were ordered by myself. But I still reach for the cracker and sauce. Maybe this is what they mean. Sure, you can conqueror the world, but sometimes to make it through you need to add the extras. The experience of eating an oyster is enhanced by adding a saltine and some Heinz cocktail sauce, maybe even a lemon. So then maybe the experience of exploring –whether in a literal, physical sense or in a mental, emotional sense- can not stand alone either without the enhancement of things like family, friends, or love. If it can not stand alone, perhaps, when one says “the world is your oyster” they are simply reminding you to dare to try something new but not to forget your ritz and your cocktail sauce.

Or maybe the phrase refers instead to the fact that an oyster can be home to the possibility of a beautiful mistake. When a foreign particular makes it’s way into the oyster lining, it irritates and creates a protective barrier- a pearl. A rare accident indeed, but lovely and pure. Pearls are reserved to celebrate milestones like your 30th anniversary. My parents gave me my first real pearls to mark the completion of my bachelor’s degree. I suppose when you allow something foreign into your life, every once in a while you get something perfect. Not every oyster yields a pearl, but maybe life is about allowing things to irritate you and open your mind until you find a pearl in the lining of your life.


About Caren

Creative writing professor, craft beer enthusiast, & general foodie- so basically a typical alcoholic poet living in London.
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