1. Delicious raw.
2. Nutritious (high in protein, iron, omega-3s, calcium, zinc, vitamin C).
3. No feed inputs after larvae stage (so oyster farmers are dependent on good quality water to supply their product with phytoplankton, making oyster farmers some of the most ardent environmentalists).
4. Tasty when fried (and easy to fry).
5. Positive impact on water quality (a single oyster filters 30-50 gallons of water per day).
6. Low maintenance (thousands of oysters can be grown with 15 minutes per week of work).
7. Picking up an oyster directly from the beach, shucking it, and eating it right there (still alive) is the most connected I've ever felt to the earth.
8. Oyster beds are, like a garden, biodiverse spaces for dozens and dozens of different species to congregate.
9. Oysters look like vaginas and vaginas are pretty cool.
10. Oysters have only a rudimentary nervous system and are immobile after the three week larvae stage, making them a viable protein/nutrient source for the vegan-inclined-for-moral-reasons, since they had no evolutionary advantage to developing a pain response. Here's a great blog post about that.
It's easier than you think. All the complicated batter, breadcrumbs, and sauces you've seen at restaurants are unnecessary. They will distract you from the essence of your meal: fresh oysters. All you need to fry the most decadent oysters is: hot grapeseed oil in a pan, a ziplock bag partially filled with flour and spices, and fresh oysters.
To Fry an Oyster:
1. Obtain shelled oysters. Fresh ones. Grow your own. Check out Olympia Seafood Company downtown. Buy some from Evan and John Adams at Sound Fresh Clams & Oysters at the Olympia Farmers Market. Pick up a bowl of geoduck chowder and a couple dozen oysters at Taylor Shellfish's utilitarian storefront in Shelton. Oysters can be stored in the fridge (in a bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel - never underwater) for up to a week, but the flavor will quickly start to deteriorate.
2. Steam those babies. As many of us know, nothing tastes better in a steam room than a cheap can of beer. Oysters feel the same way. Or rather, they taste the same way. I have a small steamer that sits in my stockpot, so I fill water or beer to right below the steamer and bring it to a boil. Fill the pot with shelled oysters, cover, bring liquid to a boil, and steam for 9-14 minutes, or until some of the shells are popping open. The timing is not super important, as we are only steaming the oysters to (a) make the oysters easier to shuck, and (b) firm up the flesh so it will be more turgid when fried.
3. Shuck those babies. Using sturdy gloves (on both hands, as oyster shells and shucking knives are both sharp) and a shucking knife (or a butter knife or whatever you have - I was once spotted on Red Square in an evening gown shucking oysters with a Philips screwdriver), split the oyster shells open from the hinge, scraping the knife along the shell and severing the abductor muscle on either side. Admire the beauty:
Wild and cultivated oysters around the world are dying and failing to develop a shell in the larvae stage, because of ocean acidification and our species' folly. The best way to honor them that I have found - beyond fighting for environmental regulations and raising public awareness - is to enjoy them, to share them, and to love them while we still can.