Oysters

“I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion….They not only forgive our unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on being perfectly horrid to them. Once they arrive at the supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the thing. There’s nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster.”

—Clovis, in a story by Saki


It was at Felix’s that I first ate an oyster raw, that is to say, live. A rite of passage. Felix’s was a good place for it, because I don’t like to be talked through things, and the shuckers in Felix’s are not solicitous. As a rule New Orleanians in service occupations are by no means boundary-conscious. You’ll hear a couple arguing at a restaurant table, the wife saying, “I need validation!” and a passing waitress will say to the husband, “Yeah, cher, she needs validation.” Rosemary James recalls entering a stylish restaurant and seeing one waiter slapping the other with a napkin as if challenging him to a duel, and the other pulling off a tablecloth to play him like a bull. “I realized,” she said, “that everybody in the place was drunk.” But the shuckers of Felix’s have perhaps been involved in so much opening up that they keep their own counsel. I loaded my first raw oyster with catsup, horseradish, hot sauce, and lemon juice, said a little prayer, and slurped it down.

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