Consider the Oyster

Paul Wittenstein is the General Manager and Nursery Manager of the Aquaculture Research Corporation [A.R.C.] of Cape Cod, a leader in the shellfish industry through advocacy and restoration.

The winter holiday season is a big oyster-eating one and Fishing Partnership suggests we all consider the oyster in our meal planning. Baked, fried, grilled, stewed, Rockefeller, or just plain on the half-shell, oysters have held a significant seat at the New England table for centuries. Try this recipe for Oyster Melts!

“This is the absolute best time of year to eat shellfish,” says general manager at ARC Hatchery, Paul Wittenstein. “They’re storing up fats and sugars in their bodies in preparation for winter, the coastal waters are getting cold and crispy; all of this lends itself to ridiculously plump, briny, and sweet oysters.”

Wittenstein and his colleagues at the Dennis aquaculture facility know a thing or two about shellfish; each year, the hatchery grows millions of quahogs, surf clams, bay scallops, and oysters for distribution around the world.

“In my mind, the best part of any [holiday] gathering is hanging in the kitchen with people you love, putting a meal together while sipping on some drinks, and eating some good appetizers, so why not some oysters on the half-shell or done up hot to go with it all?”

Many know that in addition to oysters being delicious and nutritious, they play an integral role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem by filter-feeding and thereby removing particles and pollutants, such as excess nitrogen and phosphorus, from the waters in which they live. In addition to improving the water quality, the shells of consumed oysters can also be recycled, which in turn contributes to reef restoration efforts. Because oyster larvae survive by affixing themselves to hard surfaces, like old oyster shells, the spats, as the larvae are then known, help to rebuild the reefs. Not only do the reefs provide a habitat for the oysters, but they also create refuge for other species, such as shrimp, fish, and crabs. By recycling the shells, oyster lovers are also helping to reduce erosion by building natural breakwaters and in turn, protecting coastal marshes.

“Its chilly, delicate gray body slips into a stewpan or under a broiler or alive down a red throat, and it is done. Its life has been thoughtless but no less full of danger, and now that it is over we are perhaps the better for it.”

Discover Author MFK Fisher’s Oyster Recipes

Fishing Partnership has the book Consider the Oyster in our Chatham Commercial Fishing Library. All are welcome to stop by the office to borrow this book as well as other seafood cookbooks on our shelves.

About M.F.K. Fisher

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908-1992) was a preeminent American food writer. She was also a founder of the Napa Valley Wine Library. She wrote 27 books, including Consider the Oyster. Her first book was published in 1937. Her writings are a collection of food literature, travel and memoir. Fisher believed that eating well was just one of the “arts of life” and explored this in her writing.

“Life is hard, we say. An oyster’s life is worse. She lives motionless, soundless, her own cold ugly shape her only dissipation”  Consider the Oyster (1941) – M.F.K. Fisher

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