Things to do in the Languedoc: Eating: Oysters
(huîtres) are part of life in the Languedoc. There is
no avoiding Oysters here , especially during the Christmas
and New Year period, when it is customary to eat them and
boxes of oysters packed in ice and seaweed are stacked up
in markets. This is right in the middle of the season. The
best months for oysters are September to April. After this,
the water warms up and the oyster 'meat' becomes milky.
The French eat oysters all year round generally with shallot
vinegar and brown bread and butter. If you eat them in a place
renowned for its oyster farms and seafood restaurants, the
experience has an authenticity that adds to the charm.
If you are new to eating oysters, take the little oyster
fork (half-fork, half-teaspoon) and push it beneath the oyster,
to loosen it from its shell. Squeeze on a few drops of shallot
vinegar (or lemon juice, or Tabasco sauce). Open your mouth,
rest the oyster shell on your bottom lip, and tip your head
back. Swallow it in a single gulp.
Oysters are farmed in "parcs". The farmers cement
baby oysters onto lengths of heavy-duty string, laid out on
sheets of corrugated plastic, in preparation for plunging
them into the waters of the lagoon where they will reach maturity.
Young oysters have to be positioned in the right way, put
in the water at the right time to avoid them getting eaten
by fish, pulled out again to be separated as they mature to
give them more space to grow, put back in again. It can take
over a year to grow a good-sized specimen).
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