Friday, October 26, 2007

What’s an ostréiculteur?

It’s the French name for a guy or woman who farms oysters – obvious when you know, of course. Not exactly a bird-puller, but it does roll smoothly off the tongue: “I’m an ostréiculteur actually – only in a small way of course. What do you do?”. You can ask me anything you want to know about oysters – but surprisingly no one ever does.
As you’ll remember from yesterday’s lesson, as you go north along the Médoc peninsula, on the eastern, or River Gironde, side, are vineyards. On the left or western side is the Atlantic Ocean, and the bay of Arcachon (pic), where 60% of the oysters eaten in France come from. As with Bordeaux wines, the initial consumers were the English –it was much easier to ship to England than to Paris. Parisians got their oysters from Britanny.

Oyster farming, or as we in the know call it, "ostréiculture", is labour-intensive and wet work, and it takes an average three years per oyster. (They are rumoured to improve one’s prowess in the boudoir - Louis XIV ate 150 at every meal.) Of course we had to partake of this delicacy, but for a different reason, along with the odd glass of Entre Deux Mers. The DG decided she didn't like oysters, so we did a trade. They were delicious.

What’s in a name? Plenty. What chance have I got with a name like mine when there are writers around with names like Peregrine Worsthorne, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Simon Sebag Montefiore? Imagine them in your class at school: "Where’s Simon Sebag Montefiore?" "I saw him in the bike shed with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Sir." "Thank you, Jones."

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