'It was a bold first man that first ate an oyster’, wrote the Irish satirical novelist Jonathan Swift. We do not know when a human being first had the bizarre idea of immersing themselves in the sea to gather an oyster, open it and eat it. First they had to feel drawn to its twisted, grooved and rough shell, which is unlikely in itself. Then – what is even more unlikely – they had to manage to open it. And finally, upon finding that half-meaty, half-slimy, dark greenish body, they had to make the decision to put it in their mouth. Whoever it was was probably very hungry. But one thing is absolutely certain, and that is that they discovered one of the great delicacies, highly prized for millennia now.
Because this bivalve mollusc was all the rage in prehistoric times, as is proven by finds of mounds of shells belonging to all the Mesolithic cultures located close to the sea. In Antiquity, the Greeks enjoyed them roasted, fried, with oil or cooked with honey, parsley and mint. The Romans, who accompanied them with black bread, used to call them calliblepharis, which means ‘beautiful eyelids’. In 17th-century France banquets were held comprised exclusively of oysters, and historical figures like Marie Antoinette or Voltaire devoured them with passion.
Today they are eaten in all possible ways, from the fried, batter-coated oyster ‘po boy’ sandwich from New Orleans, to the oysters marinated in ponzu sauce with white daikon radish and algae typical of Japan. Oysters Rockefeller are baked in the oven with a mixture of cheese, butter, breadcrumbs, spinach and parsley, and this mollusc is also consumed braised in its own shell or even grilled. But the most highly esteemed way of eating them is raw, freshly caught and seasoned with just a squeeze of lemon juice, perhaps, and a little pepper or hot sauce. In Puerto Portals they can be eaten raw in the restaurants Ritzi (accompanied by onion vinaigrette) and Baiben (seasoned with a mignonette vinaigrette with shallots and apple vinegar). Enjoying them in the surroundings of Puerto Portals, the words of the French poet Léon-Paul Fargue acquire their maximum significance: ‘I love oysters. It’s like kissing the sea on the lips’.