Thursday, December 11, 2008

Edible Delights & Rare Sights

As it is the month of December and slurping down small perfect raw oysters is part of the Christmas season celebration here on the West Coast, I thought I should comment on all the good wrapped around eating oysters.

It is interesting that the world is made up of oyster lovers or oyster haters. Pretty much a 50/50 split. For my part I have always been a big fan of oysters , raw and cooked. I think it stems back to early training. My dad had my brothers and I eating raw oysters fresh out of the sea while on our many summer boating holidays when we were just kids.

As it turns out oysters are really a perfect food. As a nouveau oyster farmer I began doing some research on oysters and was surprised to find out oysters are high in zinc, potassium, and vitamins A, B-12, C and D. Another big plus is oysters are a great source of cholesterol reducing omega 3 fatty acids. A few small oysters add up to about 70 calories and only 2.5 milligrams of fat. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice and you've got extra vitamin C.

Bob and I think our Pacific oysters grown in the waters of Blind Bay, Nelson Island have an amazing flavour and believe this is due to the "terroir" as it is now being referred to by "oyster aficionados". Our oysters are grown in deep water with plenty of current flow and an incredible amount of oyster nutrient for them to feed on.

The colder the water the better the oyster, and once we get into the month of December eating platters of raw oysters is definitely one of the perks of oyster farming. We recently spent two and a half days at the farm working to build up a supply of bagged oysters to ship to our Asian buyer. The weather is always an issue at this time of year and this trip we had a bit of good and bad. The first day was unbelievable and rare. I recorded in my oyster farming journal that the afternoon spent out on the rafts was spectacular and the surrounding bay scenery looked like a perfect day in July. Dazzling blue sky and a flat calm bay reflecting puffy white clouds floating by. The water was so calm and clear that we were able to see fifty or sixty feet down into the beautiful emerald green. The day's work ended fairly early due to the failing light late in the afternoon and we headed back to our dock at 4:30. Once we struggled out of the layers of "rubber" clothing I had Bob shuck a small pile of "slurper" oysters for us to enjoy before dinner. We got a fire burning in our wood stove and turned on the kereosene heater a sympathetic friend had lent us for the winter. Outside our little cabin night fell and we were surrounded by complete blackness . Rising over the island to the southeast were two brilliant stars , one of which I think was a planet only visible in the winter night sky. I lit all of our candles and waited for the cabin to warm up. This is always a bit of a joke as the holes and cracks in the log walls of the cabin are everywhere and sizeable. No wind is a blessing and this night we were blessed.

I decided we should celebrate being at Nelson Island on such a perfect winter evening and got out the icy cold vodka to have with our Pacific beauties. We poured the vodka into our glasses and dug in to the delicious oysters. The taste of the oysters was devine. Sweet, salty and finishing with hints of melon and flint. Nothing comes close to winter oysters right out of the sea. There was even the scent of ocean air surrounding them. While enjoying this decadent treat we were startled to see a strange glowing light out in the black night sky. This light appeared to be centered over Texada Island way off in the distance and it was a beautiful pinkish orange colour. At first we thought there was a terrible forest fire burning on the big island and we tuned in the radio to a local station for news on this disaster. The local disc jockeys were making no mention of any such fire and we sat puzzled by this strange phenomenon. All of a sudden I knew what this was. We were witnessing an amazing show of the Northern Lights! This is something we would never see in the city and it was truly spectacular. Waves of coloured light in the black velvet sky rising and receding over the silouetted island. We finished the oysters and marvelled at yet another unique winter experience while oyster farming at Nelson Island. There are many moments of fine locavore dining and unexpected beauty.