84 Oysters. The final count for the night stood at seven dozen. It wasn’t the 120 that I aimed for. But it was a number that I could comfortably and enjoyably do. My first 60 were easy. I thought I could coast right though it. But after another dozen I abruptly hit a wall. It was sudden and somewhat surprising.
Something I didn’t anticipate was how monotonous it could have been if the oysters weren’t “dressed up.” Not that the oysters which were from Canada and Australia needed it, they were plump and pristine. I couldn’t tell their species though. I love oysters but after my first two-dozen I was glad that chef Kevin Ng topped his oysters with a variety of condiments.
There were simple bubbles of Tabasco and of Lychee. Some were topped with miso, lime granita or avruga caviar. Others were marinated in rice vinegar or sake.
(One of my pet peeves is that restaurants in Singapore don’t shuck the bottom adductor muscle from the oyster. I brought my oyster knife because I knew this was going to happen. Please, chefs and restaurants take note, an oyster isn’t considered shucked until it’s been detached from its bottom shell as well. It’s frustrating trying to pry an oyster loose with a fork.)
My favorites of the night were the carrot and orange puree, shoyu jelly and papaya powder.
My favorite moment was right at the beginning, when the people at Private Affairs, who had gotten wind of what I wanted to do, asked me to sign an indemnity form. I thought it was hilarious. And for the curious, nothing happened to me after.
A lot of people asked why I would want to eat so many oysters. I’ll take excerpts (wholesale cut and paste really, but excerpts sounds more elegant) from a comment I wrote on the previous post:
I’m at a lost myself to explain it. At first it was just a fun thing to do. I enjoyed eating them and I wanted to see if I could push myself to eat that many. My marathon partner commented on Facebook that it was just like running a marathon. I thought it was a good analogy.
I got a comment today (19-03-2010) on a post I put up right at the end of last year. It was also about another gorge-fest I had. (My oyster eating night was meant to be a continuation of that post.) The point I was trying to make was that sometimes food is not just for nutrition and the satiety of hunger. But I didn’t explain myself well enough, because the comment was a question on what I meant. Again words fail me. So I borrowed from one of the greatest food writers, M.F.K. Fisher, to answer the question. I’ll reproduce it again:
“So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.” – The Gastronomical Me
She expressed what I felt and tried to write, but failed to communicate.
As I re-read though that post and was thinking of tomorrow’s (19-03-2010) event, I recalled another incident at the Lobster Festival in Maine, where I stuffed myself beyond what my hunger called out for. Read till the end of that post. I make my point there.
So that’s why I did it. Now that it’s over, was there anything I felt differently? Was there a profound change that happened? Like the sense of worth and accomplishment you get when you complete your first marathon? No. It was just an enjoyable night.
What I did gain was a perspective that we take our food for granted. That eating, because it is routine, sometimes becomes mundane. It might seem strange but I think I love gorging myself because it is a celebration of food.
Private Affairs 45 Joo Chiat Place Singapore 427769 Tel: 6440-0601 http://www.privateaffairs.com.sg/ Oyster nights are only on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. $38++ for all the oysters you can eat including two glasses of Cava. Reservations only.