Roy does. Roy works at Whitstable fish market, shucking oysters for greedy tourists like me. I met him last summer when a friend and I were at the market buying crab sandwiches. The sandwiches were sold from a utilitarian glazed counter by a stone-faced woman in a gingham overall and a paper hat. Roy’s stall opposite was a brightly painted wooden cart topped with an elaborate display of ice, lemons and shellfish. Roy himself was in an apron and baseball cap (and T-shirt and trousers) and had a big grin. We were drawn in.
It was July and I asked Roy about the rule that says “Never eat oysters if there isn’t an R in the name of the month”. According to him when it comes to Irish oysters the rule doesn’t really apply. Also according to him the famous Whitstable oysters are pitifully small and nothing special. So we ordered an oyster chaser to the crab sandwiches.
While Roy shucked the oysters – without looking at the oysters or the knife – he shared a surprising amount of information. He grew up in London. He had worked in the hotel industry for forty years. This was the first time in his life he had lived by the sea. He had retired but gone back to work because he was bored. And this was the best breakfast he knew for impressing a ‘lady’:
Roy’s oyster breakfast
fresh (i.e. baked that morning) baguette
1 dozen fresh oysters
Cut chunks of bread and spread with butter.
Cut the lemon into wedges.
Shuck the oysters.
Put a small glass of port into each of two pint glasses. Fill to the brim with Guinness.
Arrange bread, oysters and Guinnes on a tray and eat in bed.
If anyone served me this breakfast I would be seriously impressed. Quite apart from the effort it would take to get all the ingredients together if you didn’t happen to be a professional oyster shucker who lives down the road from a good French bakery, and apart from the fact it would taste good and be fun to eat, it has, to me, a really attractive combination of qualities: simple sophistication (oysters!) contrasted with outrageously earthy hedonism (Guinness and port! for breakfast!). I suspect Roy made a few ladies very happy in his youth. Perhaps he still does. Good on him.