At least, I don’t think oysters have assholes. I checked the oysters I ate last night for assholes; actually I checked them for anatomy in general. Without being stoned at all and I only had two stouts at this point (which is nowhere near enough to get me drunk), I was just sort of amazed that what I was eating was a whole animal. Like, you just crack it open and there it is. An entire organism, dressed up with some lemon and maybe some horseradish and down it goes. It was its own little miracle that I ate raw oysters at all, considering my traumatic childhood experience with them.
I was four. My dad was a wholesale produce man, meaning that he supplied produce to restaurants and markets. He’d also come up in restaurants, so occasionally, the dudes who worked in them would sell him stuff at a discount that they weren’t going to sell for the regular price to customers. And these were fine dining establishments, so he brought home lobster, clams, and, as I’ll illustrate, oysters, which are fine on their own and in adulthood, but aren’t really the type of things a child would enjoy.
I should also point out that my childhood came before the time when parents would acquiesce to their children’s request for different foods. It blows my mind that kids are allowed to request things for dinner now, and it’s not unusual for parents to cook two separate meals: one normal and probably at least a little nutritious, and the other consisting of nuggets of mechanically-processed chicken parts. This was not the kind of world 4-year-old me was living in, which meant that anything my parents ate, I was expected to eat.
It had to have been after dinner one night, because I remember it was dark out and the only light on in the kitchen was the dim yellowish bulb over the sink. My dad was sitting at the table eating these weird things with what I thought was ketchup (in hindsight, it was probably cocktail sauce). I asked him what he was eating.
“Oysters,” he said. “Want one?”
The only foods I didn’t like at age four were cabbage (smelled like farts) and tomatoes (still can’t eat them), and I had yet to come across anything with a texture as challenging as that of an oyster. I couldn’t imagine that anything would be like that, and all I was thinking was that my dad was eating them and the shells were pretty. My dad placed an oyster at my mouth, the shell just resting on my bottom lip. It smelled like grass and saltwater.
“I’m going to tip this into your mouth. Chew twice and then swallow it, okay?”
I nodded. The oyster tipped. I chewed twice and remembered about swallowing, but the texture was the most alien, phlegm-y thing I’d ever experienced, and here’s where I got confused. The oyster was stuck between my throat and my mouth. I wasn’t choking, I was keeping it there on purpose. See, the slippery, slimy texture was so strange and awful that I couldn’t bring myself to allow this thing to fully enter my body. On the other hand, I didn’t want it back in my mouth again, because that would mean repeating the experience. So I just kept it there, horrified, while my dad laughed and told me to spit it out, then. Which is also what my mother says she told me the first time I was old enough to consciously vomit, because apparently I have issues with spitting out really disgusting things.
So YEAH, trauma. But now I’m a grownup and I like all sorts of things I didn’t like when I was a kid. I still don’t eat actual heads of cabbage, but I made myself brussels sprouts for dinner the other night and that’s practically the same thing. When Stephanie told me to accompany her to the Schlafly Stout and Oyster Festival, I figured that I’d try a raw oyster, and if I didn’t like it, I could at least drink stout (which I love without question). I ate six. Including the giant Connecticut Bluepoint held out to me by a shucker, who beamed and asked, “What does that look like to you?”
“That looks like a sex organ,” I said.
“It could be yours.”
I took it and ate it. It was okay. Actually, my favorites were the Gold Creek oysters from the West Coast, which tasted like the ocean smells. I should know, I used to live there. All in all, it was more interesting than horrifying, although I still won’t get a dozen oysters for dinner just for the hell of it.
I started thinking about oysters and their assholes because in addition to the half dozen raw I got, I also bought half a dozen fried. Since the fried oysters didn’t have the must-keep-in-mouth-at-all-times quality that the raw ones did, I bit into one and then looked at it. I should not have looked at it.
It was black in there. In the very center, I mean. Outside was the breading, and then this creamy white oyster flesh, and in the middle it was black. I guess it was the edges of the oysters folded into themselves, but whatever happened there, it gave me pause. Like the vein of a shrimp, but bigger. And I know the vein of a shrimp is blood (at least I assume so, since it’s called a vein), but I still kind of think of it as poop. Because, I mean, obviously. You don’t get raised on poop and fart jokes and not assume that most things are related. So even though I like most fried things, I started thinking about oyster poop and I felt fuller than I probably was.
But like I said, there was stout, so I drank some. Only three, which is pretty impressive when you consider my love for Schlafly Coffee Stout. I was practicing moderation because today I’m going to Crown Valley’s Homebrew Competition with Brennan, who, along with that blind bastard Phillips, is entering an Imperial Russian Stout called Kovack Square. Soon to be renamed as Tretiak’s Revenge.
I still haven’t heard back from the New Mexico Gaming and Alcohol Division, though. Either they’re thinking of a really excellent answer or putting me on some Communist watchlist.