Just a couple weeks in SF did it for me. I became an Oyster-Lover. So, I was rather sad to come back to my very in-land hometown in Mexico. However, a couple of days ago, one of my friends said that I could get really good oysters from Veracruz, and oysters here in Puebla, only a couple of hours away from Veracruz, were pretty fresh.
As I was CERTAIN somebody had told me that oysters only grew in northern latitudes, I had to look it up myself.
Mexico, in fact, is the 6th largest producer of oysters in the world, according to a study in the Marine Fisheries Review. But the oyster culture here is very different from that of "connoisseur" cultures. There aren't any Oyster Bars, no 3-dollar-per-oyster-served-over-ice-with-thai-inspired-sauce. People just serve the raw meats on a plate.
Furthermore, nobody can tell me what kind of oysters there are here in MX.
The general answer has been "well, there are little, medium, and large."
Also, as a non-connoisseur I have had trouble finding acurate information about oysters: to eat or not to eat during R months? (two online articles said the opposite: one said to eat during R months, one said NOT to eat during R months?) to eat or not to eat raw ones?
So, my questions are:
1. What variety are these Mexican oysters? And do oyster bars in the states import Mexican oysters or they only consumed locally?
2. Can they be eaten raw? Can a long-dead oyster be eaten raw?
4. When can they be eaten? summer, winter?
5. Are the best oysters from the cooler climates (north) or south?
I've had many over the years, mostly on the Pacific coast,and I've probably been a little lucky, except for a chunk of smoked Marlin from the market in Zihuatenejo that had my feeling for two days that I would have to get a little better just to die.
Many Mexican restaurants do not have sufficient refrigeration space, and ice is always dear because it is expensive and sometimes simply unavailable. Ice even for a cold drink is often a special request. This is another reason to be cautious during the non"r" months.
No doubt the shuckers intercept some quantity of visibly bad ones we never know about, but your own inspection is important, too. I wish I knew any of the varietal names, but they just call 'em ostras and that's all the detail they provide.
Eating raw oysters in Mexico is a dodgy proposition to start with unless you are equipped with a fully Mex-acclimatized stomache and even then it's a toss up. In a high end restaurant perhaps, off of a stand or a small restaurant, never unless you want to roll the revenge dice.
No, long dead oysters are dangerous and can kill people with compromised immune systems.
The "R" month mantra is to protect people from the dangerous bacteria - red tides, etc - that can appear in the ocean during the summer months and infect the oysters. So, eat them only during the R months is the old saying.
Yes, the best oysters generally come from cooler climates.
Finally, while I have eaten oysters in Mexico, I am unaware of their pedigree so I can't speak to the quality of Mexican-harvested oysters.
As far as the raw oysters served here in inland Pátzcuaro, I have never seen them refrigerated nor iced until plated. Once, in near coastal Los Mochis, we saw a bar heaped with unrefrigerated raw shellfish, including oysters.
I will not eat raw oysters in Mexico (although I will eat various forms of ceviche, sometimes, depending...)
One devastating illness back in 1980, probably contracted from a raw oyster cocktail in Tuxpan, Veracruz, was enough to put me off them for a lifetime.
Considering the disease possibilities, it just isn't worth the risk to me.