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Chew or Swallow Oysters

babaoriley7 Feb 6, 2008 11:25 AM

My first oyster experience was very intimidating... a co-worker ordered some for the table so I felt obligated to try one. So down it goes with some lemon juice, cocktail sauce and no chewing and I'm thinking... why the heck did I just do that. I tasted the lemon and the cocktail sauce and it was good but the meat of the bite wasn't tasted and just swallowed. Maybe I could've swished it around or something but I wasn't sure what to do with it.

Moving forward, I went to another oyster joint with the significant other and she ordered some. Following her lead I had a few (still hesitant) but I chewed them and then I really started to appreciate them for their crisp clean ocean-y flavor. Now I chew them and I love them, small and raw is preferred but small ones at Christmas time fried up are another favorite (family tradition).

So reading some old post I see some people are adamant that you swallow them whole without chewing. I'll probably continue to chew them but if it is a faux pas, perhaps I'd consider being more "polite" in certain situations.

Maybe there are two schools of thought on this and there isn't much reason to argue what is right but I'm curious what the general consensus is...

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  1. E Eto RE: babaoriley7 Feb 6, 2008 12:46 PM

    This is probably the old post referenced.

    1 Reply
    1. re: E Eto
      babaoriley7 RE: E Eto Feb 6, 2008 12:59 PM

      I didn't get to that one actually... thanks for the link

    2. HSBSteveM RE: babaoriley7 Feb 6, 2008 01:15 PM

      Nothing, and I mean NOTHING that an individual does to optimize their enjoyment of a particular food (within the bounds of civility) should be considered a faux-pas. So don't even ask - just enjoy them the way you want. If your dining partners seem put off by this, then stop. I don't mean stop eating oysters your way. Stop eating with them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: HSBSteveM
        steinpilz RE: HSBSteveM Feb 6, 2008 04:13 PM

        Agreed, by all means slurp, chew, cook, and add whatever sauces you like (thouigh I prefer raw oysters without any flavour enhancers).

        1. re: HSBSteveM
          linguafood RE: HSBSteveM Feb 6, 2008 04:19 PM

          Very well put. And how are you supposed to taste anything if you're not gonna chew?

        2. ddavis RE: babaoriley7 Feb 6, 2008 04:31 PM

          A friend asked a very classy looking elderly lady from New Orleans whether oysters should be chewed and her reply was, "Young man, cultured people always chew their food."

          1 Reply
          1. re: ddavis
            pilches RE: ddavis Feb 6, 2008 05:22 PM

            I just returned from a charity event that was a oyster tasting and wine pairing sampler. It was limited to 70 people (although, I would swear there were more). After reading this post earlier in the day, I decided to eat and observe. I LOVE oysters and would never considring swallowing whole (what's the point?). From what I could see, most people do chew. I didn't actually see anyone just swallowing, but then again, I was pretty busy eating. I would say, do whatever you like and enjoy!!! I don't think there are any rules in oyster eating.

          2. jfood RE: babaoriley7 Feb 6, 2008 05:24 PM

            The beauty of enjoying oyster includes both the flavor and the texture. Swallowing without the pit stop of chewing sorta defeats the purpose of the wonderful morsel. you will miss how some are more briney than others, how the texture of some are like melting brie while others are more dense, or the wonderful smell of the brine that accompanies the oysters if shucked properly. As yu can see jfood highly recommends the chew versus the swallow. But if you enjoy the swallow versus chew that's your choice, but give the chew a try once you feel comfortable. Good oysters make for a great meal all by themselves.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jfood
              C. Hamster RE: jfood Feb 13, 2008 12:14 PM

              I agree entirely.

            2. Gio RE: babaoriley7 Feb 6, 2008 05:53 PM

              "As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
              Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

              1. l
                link_930 RE: babaoriley7 Feb 7, 2008 01:01 AM

                Try rolling it around in your mouth a bit first before chewing. It's insanely delicious.

                1. k
                  KevinB RE: babaoriley7 Feb 10, 2008 01:25 PM

                  MFK Fisher:

                  ""There are three kinds of oyster-eaters: those loose-minded sports who will eat anything, hot, cold, thin, thick, dead or alive, as long as it is oyster; those who will eat them raw and only raw; and those who with equal severity will eat them cooked and no way other. . . . The first group may perhaps have the most fun, although there is a white fire about the others' bigotry that can never warm the broad-minded."

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: KevinB
                    BlueHerons RE: KevinB Feb 12, 2008 10:46 AM

                    I chew cooked ones and don't chew raw ones.

                    1. re: BlueHerons
                      curiousbaker RE: BlueHerons Feb 12, 2008 10:56 AM

                      Me, too. It never occurred to me that people chewed them. Huh.

                      1. re: curiousbaker
                        C. Hamster RE: curiousbaker Feb 13, 2008 12:15 PM

                        Why swallow something that delicious whole? How can you even taste it?

                        1. re: C. Hamster
                          BlueHerons RE: C. Hamster Feb 13, 2008 12:53 PM

                          My taste buds are on my tonge not my teeth.

                          1. re: BlueHerons
                            C. Hamster RE: BlueHerons Feb 13, 2008 12:58 PM

                            Why chew anything then?

                            Chewing enables digestion but also enables tasting. Imagine swallowing pieces of steak whole. You'd briefly taste the exterior of the meat but it wouldn't "taste" anything like it would if youhad chewed it.

                            Chew an oyster sometime and see.

                            1. re: C. Hamster
                              BlueHerons RE: C. Hamster Feb 15, 2008 03:17 PM

                              Hamster, living near a fishing village on the Coast of South Carolina, I've been eating oysters as long as I can remember eating anything. They are part of my culture and my history.

                              I think I know how to eat a raw oyster and what they taste like.

                              It has been tradition in my family for a hundred years to have oysters the night before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Years day, and most Saturday football games in season.

                              South Carolina oysters are small and salty and very good.

                              I will not eat Gulf Oysters. You'd choke on them if you didn't chew.

                              I chew fried and roasted oysters.

                            2. re: BlueHerons
                              E Eto RE: BlueHerons Feb 13, 2008 01:01 PM

                              The inside of an oyster tastes different from the outside. You should try it.

                              1. re: E Eto
                                aurora50 RE: E Eto Feb 13, 2008 01:14 PM

                                I intended to be a "lurker" on this thread, but - yeah -
                                - Why swallow an oyster (or anything) whole? I didn't even know there were people out there who did that!

                                1. re: aurora50
                                  likaluca RE: aurora50 Aug 26, 2008 10:59 AM

                                  I do both and I definitely think there is merit to both! Depends on the oyster, for me, although I am new to the game. I love both the taste and texture of a small, delicious oyster AND the sensation of swallowing a yummy, briny oyster.

                                  I know some avoid them in the summer months, but I find that its uber refreshing (swallowing them) when its hot out.

                                  They taste good to me either way. But I admit, its way more natural for me not to chew. I don't think I lose anything.

                            3. re: C. Hamster
                              curiousbaker RE: C. Hamster Feb 14, 2008 06:10 AM

                              I don't know - you sort of swirl it and suck on it and taste the briny sweetness, then down it slides. I had never been told to eat it that way, that's just what came naturally. But I'll try chewing the next time.

                              1. re: curiousbaker
                                BlueHerons RE: curiousbaker Feb 17, 2008 04:01 PM

                                Yep, that's exactly how I eat raw oysters.

                                I chew cooked oysters not raw ones.

                                1. re: BlueHerons
                                  linguafood RE: BlueHerons Feb 17, 2008 04:31 PM

                                  Have you ever tried chewing them, and did not like the result? Or is it something you simply won't do out of habit? I'm just curious as someone who is a very recent oyster convert. I've tried them many times before in my life, and think I also swallowed them, but never liked em.

                                  Just recently I've had some that I liked, and now I am rather addicted.... just what I needed: another expensive craving. But I do chew.

                          2. re: BlueHerons
                            OCEllen RE: BlueHerons Feb 13, 2008 07:06 PM

                            How can one swallow a whole oyster? Well, perhaps a tiny one. But doesn't that negate 'eating/tasting' and risk choking???

                            1. re: BlueHerons
                              dolores RE: BlueHerons Aug 26, 2008 12:50 PM

                              Interesting question. I agree, BlueHerons.

                              I've not chewed raw oysters up to now. I might try it.

                              Then again, I don't chew ice cream, and while ice cream comes before all the foods on the planet, and maybe beyond, I get almost as much enjoyment from not chewing oysters (raw) as I do from ice cream.

                          3. Passadumkeg RE: babaoriley7 Feb 13, 2008 04:21 PM

                            Chew 'em, don't swallow even when in a vodka or tequilla shooter. Didn't your mother teach you to chew your food? Oysters and champagne(with a little caviar thrown in.) are the true ambrosia of the God's!

                            1. c
                              Clarkafella RE: babaoriley7 Feb 13, 2008 07:28 PM

                              I had a friend who used to make a lot of money at keg parties by snorting them- he would bet everybody at the party $5-$10 that he would do it. I saw him come away with $500 one night- a lot of money in the 70's!

                              Me, I prefer them on a saltine cracker with horseradish that has a little cocktail sauce and a lot of hot sauce added to it...

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Clarkafella
                                Passadumkeg RE: Clarkafella Feb 14, 2008 01:25 AM

                                I love the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, NYC. It was a tradition when returning to the folks for the holidays for my dad, childhood best friend and I to head into the city w/ only 1 goal in mind. The bar at theOyster Bar. A great milieu, selection of world oysters, fine oyster stew and cold clear white wines. I used to be of the smother school, now just a squeeze of lemon and taste the difference in the varieties.
                                FYI, Damarriscotta, Maine has an oyster festival every summer.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg
                                  steinpilz RE: Passadumkeg Feb 14, 2008 02:34 AM

                                  I also went to the Oyster Bar with my Dad.

                                  1. re: Passadumkeg
                                    BobB RE: Passadumkeg Feb 19, 2008 07:34 AM

                                    And Wellfleet on Cape Cod has an annual oyster festival in October.

                                2. michele cindy RE: babaoriley7 Feb 14, 2008 04:13 AM

                                  Glad to hear you stopped swallowing and started chewing! Swallowing a good oyster is the equivliant of chugging a bottle of Crystal. Great oysters can take you to the ocean when you are in a desert.

                                  1. JoanN RE: babaoriley7 Feb 14, 2008 04:22 AM

                                    A couple of years ago, Bill Buford wrote an article for The New Yorker on the oystermen of Long Island. He asked all those he interviewed, including Eric Ripert, whether or not they chewed. I just finished reading this article in “Secret Ingredients,” the collection of food-related articles from The New Yorker, but there’s an abstract of it online that includes a couple of pertinent quotes.


                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JoanN
                                      C. Hamster RE: JoanN Feb 14, 2008 07:43 AM

                                      I just started that book, but now remember reading that article when it came out. Thanks.

                                      "In an oyster, as with wine, you should be able to taste the place it came from...."

                                      So very true. This is why you chew an oyster and why you don't slather it with cocktail sauce.

                                      1. re: JoanN
                                        NUNZIO bagliere RE: JoanN Feb 14, 2008 10:03 AM

                                        I LOVE OYSTERS ON PIZZA - CHEESE - BREAD - AND ON BUTTER

                                      2. Gio RE: babaoriley7 Feb 14, 2008 10:53 AM

                                        I Love Oysters! Been eating them since forever.
                                        Chewing is the only way to taste the ocean from where these beauties cometh.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Gio
                                          foodperv RE: Gio Feb 15, 2008 07:38 PM

                                          i don't understand it either. IF you are swallowing them whole they are are not in your mouth long enough iwatched many people of the last 50 yrs and they just swallow no swishing around the mouth for the flavor just swallowing

                                        2. h
                                          hsk RE: babaoriley7 Feb 15, 2008 08:32 PM

                                          From observation, the vast majority of people who like oysters chew, at least once or twice, to release all the nuances of the oyster before they swallow. I like mine with just a drop of lemon - sauces mask the flavour, IMHO. I've seen people who don't really like oysters swallow them without chewing just to get them down before the texture brings out the gag reflex.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: hsk
                                            foodperv RE: hsk Feb 17, 2008 04:15 PM

                                            good point HSK people that don't really like them just swallow so it comes down to if you just swallow why bother

                                            1. re: foodperv
                                              foodperv RE: foodperv Feb 17, 2008 04:42 PM

                                              the other thing is its just like what i cough up when i am sick eeeeuu yuk
                                              i have tried it and i gag

                                          2. h2Bn RE: babaoriley7 Jul 11, 2009 06:38 PM

                                            I chew. It's part of the enjoyment of them.

                                            When I was a kid, someone asked my old uncle if oysters should be chewed or swallowed without chewing. He said, " of course you gotta chew 'em How else you gonna kill 'em?"

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