MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition

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MMM HMM is a print magazine where each edition focuses on an ingredient or technique and takes a full-circle approach at exploring it: interviews with chefs around the city, professional reviews, farm visits, food theory, agriculture, speciality foods, fine dining, farming, and much, much more. At MMM HMM we pride ourselves on our high quality writing, photography, and research. We aim to be fresh, professional, engaging, and innovative. We strive for the excellent quality of our staff’s work to be matched by a top-notch publication.

This edition will inquire about and elucidate on the strange yet tasty mollusk of salty waters and seaside snack stands, the Oyster. We implore you to just ‘shuck it’, crack open a bottle of dry rosé, and join us.

Live for the “mmmmm hmmmm” moments in life.


Creative Pairings


Pangea: Boston Wholesale Market


Tasting Tips and Suggestions


My First Time


Select Oyster


Merry Oyster


Isabella Celdon’s Trip to Merry Oyster Farm


The Five Main Types of Oysters


The Story of an Oyster


Dispatch from a Native Daughter


Union Oyster House


Oyster Ice Cream


Oyster Cities: New York and Boston


Our Boston Reccomendations


What the Shuck is an Oyster


The Anatomy of an Oyster


Thank yous

Sophie Lipitz

Angeli Rodriguez

Hanna Yang

Josh Smith

Brooke Mullen

Allie Miller

Hannah Leve

Isabela Celedon Madeline Carpentiere Kaitlin Tsai

“Nothing is mor than freshness a raw oyster. It is ocean barely

re perfect to me and bouquet of a the taste of the y made flesh.�

Creative Pairing illustrations by Sari Lipitz

Restaurant: Shuck Shack, San Antonio,

Chef: Lirad Kligman


Restaurant: Neptuno Oyster, Toronto

Chef: Jason Dady

Pairings: An Oyster Amuse Bouche with Uni

Pairing: West Coast Kumamoto Oysters

Mousse and Chive, A Kumamoto Oyster with

with cucumber granita and mint oil paired

Arctic Kiwi Jam2

with 2012 Weingut Laurenz V. Friendly Gruner Veltliner Kamptal.


O’Brien Coffey, Jeanne. “Six Unique Ways to Enjoy Oysters.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 July 2015. Web. 4 May 2016. Danielle. “Ginger Rose: Ocean Wise Month Media Launch.” Ginger Rose: Ocean Wise Month Media Launch. Ginger Rose Blog, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 May 2016.

Lazy Bear Sommelier Conor Carroll

Chef: David Barzelay

suggests: “Pairing it with the 2012 Do-

Pairing: Raw Oyster in Tomato Water

maine Sigalas Assyrtiko, “Kavalieros,” from

Gelee, Sungolds, Fennel Pollen, Jalapeno

Santorini, Greece. ‘The dish itself is an

Oil, Black Salt

umami bomb, with a lot of savoriness and

Barzelay says: “The transparent gelee

texture from the tomato gelee, and a briny

showcases the technique of the water and

minerality from the oyster. This wine has a

the beauty of the oyster…The Shigoku

lot of lee-sy richness on the palate, kind of

oyster has a firmer texture than most…

redolent of a nice white Burgundy, and that

texturally, it’s actually quite similar to the

pairs really well with the umami and salinity

gelee. I really like the textural interplay

of the oyster. This wine also has a lot of

between the two.”

salinity on the palate, and I love a nice mineral-driven white with my oysters.’”1



Restaurant: Lazy Bear, San Francisco

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Boston Wholesale Market Boston’s own Pangea Shellfish has been kind enough to allow MMM HMM to utilize and share their innovative Oyster Flavor Wheel. Pangea reminds us that this wheel is a constant work in progress, and while they will continue to update the wheel as they taste and learn, they would love to hear your feedback as well. Read on to learn about the wheel and how to put back some oysters with finesse. A Note from Pangea: How to use the

section, so make sure you pay attention!

wheel: “Start with the taste section. Make

If you encounter an unpleasant oyster,

sure to note the oyster’s salt content by us-

faults are built into the wheel. The wheel

ing a brine scale of 0 to 5 (0 being no salt; 5

does not explicitly call out faults because it

being full ocean salinity). Follow the wheel

is subjective, so we include it in the wheel

clockwise to note its texture and finish. An

to let the taster to determine for herself.”

oyster may have multiple attributes in each


MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Why make a flavor wheel? Pangea: Sometimes it’s difficult to describe or even distinguish the taste of one oyster from another, so we wanted to create a tool to help people reference what they are tasting. Like wine, oysters, are greatly influenced by their environments, so they express a lot of that ‘merroir’ through their flavor. There are many flavor wheels in the specialty foods industry (e.g. wine, coffee, and cheese). Some are definitely more complicated than others, but they all try to do one thing, which is to help the taster explain or map nuances in flavor and aroma.” What makes this wheel different? When we created this wheel, we wanted to make sure it was comprehensive, but also approachable. We didn’t want a mash of words simply in wheel form. Instead, the wheel is meant to be a map that guides the tasting experience from start to finish. We believe that texture is a huge component in describing an oyster’s flavor profile and have dedicated a good portion of the wheel to that category. In other wheels, smells before consumption have been emphasized, but based 14

on our experience, it’s hard to detect more than an oyster’s refreshing ocean smell (unless it’s a foul oyster, in which case you shouldn’t eat it). Texture, or mouthfeel, can range widely among varieties due to the oyster’s species or growout method. Therefore, we wanted our wheel to have a sufficient number of descriptors in this area. How do you define taste, texture, and finish? Taste can only be five things: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami—the “protein” taste. Our perception tells us we can taste more than this, but if you were to plug your nose while eating, you would only be able to detect these five things. It is only when we open up our nose, we are finally able to experience the changes in our mouth, also known as the aroma. We can tell the texture of what we are eating through chewing. Chewing creates friction and heat, which intensifies the aromas that are being experienced. When the bite is finally swallowed, some aromas may linger for some time or dissipate slowly, rounding out what we call the finish.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


How did you choose the vocabulary, like “brackish” and “spawny?” With Bekah’s skills as a chef and plenty of research, we went through a lot of oysters. We noted different tastes from our own oysters; we looked through Oysterology® information from our vendors; we looked through our weekly interoffice tasting notes; there was a lot of online research; and we even shared it with experts from other specialty foods industries. In summary, the words were pulled from many resources to create a succinct and descriptive wheel. This is the first version of the wheel, so as we learn and taste more, the wheel and its vocabulary will continue to evolve.


Photos by Kaitlin Tsai

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Photos by Isabela Celedon


MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


illustrations by Katie Napoli

When you do get to slurping down the tasty things, consider these suggestions to ensure a complete flavor experience:


Don’t drain your oysters! Tons of oyster eaters do this, but if you discard the liquor of an oyster you also lose the oyster’s brine, making it very tricky to determine salt content. It’s not a tequila shot, chew! Chew your oysters 3–4 times. If you just throw it back you will completely miss evaluating its texture and much of its aromatic finish. Have a palate cleanser between oysters. Water can do the trick, but alcoholic beverages or crackers work well too. Try your oysters naked. We know fun mignonettes and zesty cocktail sauces can be tempting but they overwhelm many of the flavors that make oysters so unique. Even if it’s just for one be bold and taste your oysters without the bells and whistles.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


My First Time Allie Miller

My heart began to race like the zebra in

and they were all very supportive of me

Racing Stripes. I had been waiting my

taking the plunge. They agreed I was ready

entire teenage life for this, and now it

for this, that it was something that everyone

was finally going to happen. The moment

should experience.

every girl anticipates. If all went well today, I would be on the road to a lifetime of delicious pleasure. I knew that my first experience probably wouldn’t go too well. I would be awkward-unsure of my own strength. We had made all of the correct preparations: reserved a private place and made sure that we were ready. I was ravenous. I had asked countless people for advice,


I talked to an older and more experienced

in elegant ball gowns I had seen doing it.

friend who had done it a hundred times.

They always seemed so nonchalant,

She said that everyone wants to just rush

effortlessly slurping down the unknown

into it and get it over with quickly, but that

fluids. Alcohol was necessary. I had a few

I should be patient. The best way to do it

drinks, and made sure to choose something

was to go slowly, savor the sweet stuff. And

fitting for this major life event. Bubbly,

since it was my first time, I shouldn’t pull

light, and celebratory-I chose a crisp

anything fancy. No wild tricks, just naked.

champagne. Even after letting my freak-flag

Above all, she told me not to take it all in

fly, my worried thoughts raced. Despite

at once.

what Paul Giamatti has told me, I know

I sat at the bar, sweaty and anxious. What

that looks always matter. I was worried

was I supposed to do with my hands? I tried

about my body, and what would happen to

to play the experience forward in my head. I

what lay beneath my Marshalls tube top.

had seen people, you know, doing it before.

What if it made me sick?

Why was I any different? I remembered that

I researched origins, and learned about the

fateful night of freak-dancing at the dock,

wonders of the Fuxbury Bay. I thought about

and I faltered. Oh boy maybe I was differ-

the exact moment it would happen, and

ent. I lacked the confidence of the women

worried that I wouldn’t be able to force it

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


down. Silver tray in hand, the waitress

smell of bad fish at the pier. It just tasted

approached and placed before me three

like the ocean.

slimy, dingy morsels. It was finally time.

I wasn’t opposed to this, but I didn’t quite

I took one of the taupe, mucus-textured

understand at first the hype of the oyster. As

crustaceans in my hand and prepared it for

I chewed, I began to enjoy the brininess of

consumption. It was my first time eating

it, I began to savor their subtle differences

an oyster. They were surprisingly small,

and crave more. I didn’t mind the texture, it

especially after the oyster shucker carefully

was buttery and smooth and way less slimy

detached the meat from the shell. When I

than I expected. There was even a little bit

brought the mollusk to my lips, I struggled

of sweet flavor inside.

a little to actually get the thing into my mouth. When I did, my first impression was that I was just tasting the sea. The foreign creature tasted like Huntington, Newport, Seal, the beaches where I grew


up. It didn’t taste fishy in the sense that

At the very least,

other seafood had, like shrimp or the

I had finally tried my first oyster.

Photo by Sophie Lipitz

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Select Oyster Sophie Lipitz

On a rare, rainy, quiet day, Select Oyster, an industrial styled oyster bar, echos with chatter of whether or not the “Island Creeks have consistent brine” and if it’s possible that “The Dixie Chicks will ever not define classic female country music.” Even on such a gloomy afternoon, the front of the house is filled with nothing but excitement and willingness to share the restaurant’s unique story. Opening staff bartender Stephanie Tang and server Michelle Bradley buzz with energy and interest in our, well, peculiar angle. Michelle explains that because Select Oyster (fittingly) “selects” the six freshest oysters daily, they can guarantee


higher quality and fresher taste to their guests. This special care to provide the freshest ingredients carries over to the preparation of their ever-changing and never underwhelming daily crudo. The crudo features the day’s freshest protein and ranges from black-caviar-topped bay scallops drizzled in a pistachio oil to Black Bass Tartare with fresh red currants, chives, and lemon. We are met right away by a cheery Michael Serpa, the founder of Select Oyster Bar and former chef at Neptune Oyster. Serpa, amidst running food and chatting with his staff behind the bar, explains that Select Oyster is “different by design.”

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Smaller and highly ingredient-driven, the Select Oyster Bar prides itself on serving deliciously “weird stuff ” and making the Massachusetts classics like fried clams and lobster rolls less of a priority. Not having grown up in Massachusetts, Serpa began his oyster-tasting journey upon moving to the state ten years ago and has come incredibly far since. Patiently correcting my gross mispronunciation of “merrior,” he explains his own personal taste in oysters: “I’d never eat an east-coast oyster on the west-coast” he says , “it’s just not worth it.” Freshness, again, is key.


Still slightly damp from the walk over, our team reluctantly left the warmth of character and indoor heating to brave the tundra yet again. As we passed the striking blue and white mural of oysters peeking through the back dining room windows it became overwhelmingly evident what a unique and special place Michael Serpa has created here. Not to mention some of the sweetest service I have encountered to this day in Boston.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Photo by Madeline Carpentiere


MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


32 Photos by Josh Smith

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Merry Oysters Sophie Lipitz

Don Merry, the owner and operator of Merry Oysters, reaches over the white brim of the speedboat into the dark mud of the oyster flats that have grown to define the Duxbury Bay. With ease but precision he picks out a calcareous, palm-sized, and by all means, perfect, oyster. Using a radioactively neon orange shucking knife and his patented “lollipop” shucking method, Don swiftly pops open the shell to reveal the pale, fleshy, quivering snack. As I held the delicacy up to my lips I realized how fortunate I was. What a gift. It really doesn’t get fresher than this.


Bleary eyed, caffeine deprived, and unsure

worked in Duxbury. After graduating

of my own expectations at 7:00 AM on a

college, Jenny realized a desk job just

Saturday, I waded out into the Duxbury

wasn’t for her. She wanted to be on the

Bay and hoisted myself into the Merry

water. She wanted to work with her

Oysters speedboat. We were met at the

hands. After looking out at the sun-

Duxbury Harbormaster by Don Merry,

streaked water and panning the brightly

whom I had shared many friendly phone

colored houses lining the bay, I couldn’t

calls with over the past few weeks, and

blame her.

Jenny Mattern, his employee of three

As we cruised through the large,

years. While fighting the wind in the bay

brown mud banks scattered with

and pushing her long braided hair out of

oysters broken up into farming plots,

her eyes, Jenny explained her journey to

Don explained that in this small bay

Merry Oysters and, furthermore, to Don.

alone as many as 15 farmers actively

She had grown up in Marshville, Mas-

grew and harvested oysters.

sachusetts, but her parents had always

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


“This group of growers has put Duxbury on


with Skip Bennett of ICO and Christian

the map—Duxbury Bay is now synonymous

Horne, founded Island Creek Oyster and

with the best oysters you can get. We have

began farming Duxbury Bay before all of the

a thriving aquaculture community here.

excitement and made it what it is today:

Our growers are selling into some of the

the largest producing oyster bay in Mas-

best restaurants and to the best chefs in

sachusetts. Pointing at the small strips of

the country. Over 15 years the community

sandy beach lining the coast, Don recalls

has grown significantly, but we’re all pretty

digging for clams on this very bay as a kid.

much doing artisanal style farming. Owner

Salting razors in this very same murky sand

operated small batch farm to table style

when no one, namely his grandparents,

production, and we’re doing it in a bay that

had a clue what a lucrative future would

has just perfect growing conditions: cold

be ahead for their “recreating” family

water, high salinity, huge daily tides. It’s a

watering hole.

bit of luck that way.”

“The oyster industry has grown exponen-

The Duxbury Bay oyster industry has had

tially since I have been involved” says Mike

incredible success, but luck clearly was not

George. Mike is the owner of Duxbury’s

the only force hard at work. Don, along

own Powder Point Oysters. He elaborates,

“The number of farms has increased along with the number of oysters landed. Fifteen years ago the majority of oysters farmed in Duxbury were sold under one brand name and to one wholesaler. Now there are multiple Duxbury brands sold to multiple wholesalers. The environment we work in is continually changing. The challenge we have as farmers is identifying these changes and adapting our farming practices to deal with them.” In such a rapidly changing market, innovation seems to be the name of the game. Don shows us a machine he invented and manufactured for the counting and quality control of Merry oysters. Reducing his weekly workload by upwards of 16 hours a week, the conveyer belt-style machine mechanically washes the oysters and automatically counts them as they are bagged--a system that eliminates all opportunities for common human error. But this wasn’t his first experiment. Don explains, “The biggest thing that I’ve learned is the densities… little ones need less room to grow.” Expanding on this lesson, Don points to his white truck sporting the Merry’s Oyster logo: a pair of neon orange waders. “If you took 100 tomato plants and put them in my truck, they wouldn’t grow.” “But,” he explains, “if you put in two they would be awesome.”

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


As our day with Don Merry went on, it became more and more apparent that to him the Duxbury Bay wasn’t just a place to live and work--it was a lifestyle and a passion. In an interview with Captain David Bill of Don reminisces: “I grew up in family of cranberry growers. As a kid Duxbury bay was my playground. Everyday now I pinch myself when I think that am able to make a living from a place that love to be.”

Self-betterment and community growth seem at the core of the operations of Merry Oysters. Being a small farm in an industry dominated by big farms with aggressive marketing strategies Don is, “Always still trying out new things.”

Of the many things that make Merry Oyster unique, the working dynamic between Don and Jenny stood apart. Whether it was their mutual commitment to the work or a shared passion for innovation in farming, I was constantly amazed by their evident respect for each other and their exemplary communication. In Jenny’s words, “It’s a small team; we understand each other.” The idea of “knowing your farmer” may seem like a “big business” marketing ploy, but there’s buying food from someone who knows their farmer and really


knowing your farmer. These relationships

smaller, shifting from farming 3 million

are what keep small but incredibly import-

oysters to 2 million: “We’d rather farm

ant farmers like Don in business. Mike

less oysters, better.”

George elaborates: “When you eat a Powder Point Oyster you are establishing a direct link to me, my farm, and to all the people that work on the farm.” Because farms like

Duxbury is what it is because of the mo-

Merry and Powder Point Oyster work in

saic of farmers, big and small--not just for

smaller crops with a smaller staff, Mike can

its large successes and big names. Under-

ensure that “any oyster that comes off my

standing how a quality oyster is produced,

farm meets specific quality measures.

the economics of food, and the compro-

I want the consumer to have a great experi-

mises that a farmer must make, whether

ence every time they order Powder Points.”

for the benefit of the consumer or their bottom

Because small farms can prioritize quality

line, are key to being a wise buyer and eater. It’s

in ways big farms can’t there’s a lot less to lose

not simply “Buy Locally! Get to know your ven-

so they have the freedom to experiment

dors!” Ask bigger questions. This will change

and innovate. Don explains that for this very

how we see Duxbury and bring us closer, not

reason Merry Oysters wants to go even

just physically, to where our food comes from.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


By supporting farms like Powder Point and Merry Oyster, you support the quality of the oyster industry as a whole. Amidst explaining the wintertime lull in Oyster growth activity, a lively diddie started chiming from the inside of Don’s wader. He chuckles, “Sorry guys - thats was the english beat playing on it’s own- do you listen to them? I love them.”


Isabela Celedon’s

03.09.16 zeiss contaflex. black and white. ISO400 35mm film

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


illustrations by Hanna Yang White, Martha C. "Eat Sheet: Oysters." Bizjournals. N.p., 28 Jan. 2008. Web.


“Eastern oysters, including Bluepoints, Wellfleets, and Malpaques, grow from the Canadian Maritimes down to the Gulf of Mexico. Many restaurants that specialize in oysters don’t serve Gulf oysters raw, however, because naturally occurring bacteria is at higher levels in those warmer waters.”

“Pacific, or gigas, oyster out the world. Varieties Shoalwaters, Hog Islan They are generally swe cucumber, or mineral n

“Belons, salty and often are native to Europe bu American waters, too. command a premium a restaurants.”

rs are grown throughs include Hama Hamas, nd, and many others. eet, with melon, nuances.”

“Kumamoto oysters originally came from Japan but are now grown along the western coast of North America. Kumamotos are approachable because of their smaller size and sweet, mild flavor, says Jeremy Anderson, executive chef at Elliott’s Oyster House in Seattle.”

n metallic in taste, ut now grow in North Relatively rare, they at fish markets and

“Olympia oysters are native to the Pacific Northwest. Their small size, with meat often only the size of a quarter, belies their assertive flavor. It’s rare to run across them outside of their home turf.” MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Like so many things in this world, an oyster starts out as a small lonely seed. Traveling with 1 million of its closest friends, the miniscule oyster measuring a wee 1.5 millimeters crosses land, far and wide, from its origin, the hatchery, to its new home: the farm.

SPLASH. Into the upweller system the little seed goes! The baby oyster floats around in a flurry of fresh water, gulping up


all of the new nutrients and algae so it too can grow big and strong like its oyster ancestors. In just one day, the seed doubles in size! Soon the tiny seed outgrows its older, slower, friends and moves into a shiny new mesh bag with 1,200 other ‘big kid’ oysters. 8 more bags just like that of the little seed, with 1,200 more oyster friends in each, are put into a growing cage. They’re then plopped into the muddy banks of the Merry Oyster plot in the Duxbury Bay. Every so often, a big friendly orange hand gives the cage a mighty shake to kick off unwanted fouling organisms and protect the happy growing oysters.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Now the seed is big and strong enough to move on once again; this time, to find its home on the floor of the Duxbury Bay. WHOOSH. The little oyster is poured from the mesh bag into a tote and spread across a section of the Merry Oyster lease. The oyster continues to grow as it settles into its new sandy home, gaining a healthy bit of weight and adding on layers of new shell. BRRR‌ the water in the bay drops to a chilly 38 degrees as winter visits Massachusetts. Cold and hungry, the little oyster decides to take a long restful nap until springtime. As the flowers begin to rise, so does the temperature of the Duxbury Bay. The Oyster stretches and takes a big yawn, waking up from its slumber and sucking up all the Bay’s new nutrients. 60

Finally, the oyster is of market size: a big and tall 3 inches from dorsal to ventral. It’s time to harvest! The tide was low and the time was right. Two big brown boots lumber up to the not-so-little oyster’s home. SCOOP. Today our farmer is hungry. Instead of taking the long voyage through counting, bagging, and processing, this oyster serves its life purpose right there on the Merry Oyster speed boat. Pop. Slice the top. Loosen the bottom. Slurp. Mmm Hmm...That’s one tasty oyster.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Dispatch from a Native Daughter Isabela Celedon


Tío Willy shuts the door behind him, donning a mysterious grin. As he saunters through the hallway, I see the bag of fresh oysters in his calloused hand. A mystery. He had left three hours earlier with “cebolla y jabón” scrawled on the back of an envelope – onions and soap. Nearly ten days into the two weeks a year I get to spend in Chile, and the relentlessly active pace of life remains steadfast. Mama kicks us out of the cramped kitchen as she prepares her ceviche and empanadas de pino for the family dinner. We sit out on the black rocks that kiss the waves, just past the lush backyard vegetable patch, basking under the sweet cerulean sky. Long, dry stalks of grass stick out between the rocks, leaving prickling marks on the backs of my thighs. Tío Willy teaches me to shuck the oysters carefully, insisting I take his glove. Halfway through the bag, I’m tossing the top shells back to the waves as quickly as he is. The wind laces my hair with sea spray and I nick my hand two times. “Un sacrificio,” he announces. A sacrifice to the oyster gods.

That day, I learned that Pacific oysters are the moneymakers in Chile. Ostrea chilensis, the native, are not. The Chilean oysters are the ones sitting on ice in seaside shacks, next to the endless expanse of red and blue fishermen’s boats

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


pulled up on shore. Slimy and briny with lingering hints of cucumber, these oysters taught my tongue what being slapped by a wave tastes like.

Two cuts and one blistering sunburn. After completing shucking duty, I spend my time in the garden as the adults do boring adult things and drink adult drinks all while dancing to blaring cumbia music. Ants slalom up and down my shins; I flick them off one by one. My cousins and I dodge the sprinklers while playing soccer, trying to ignore the calls to set the table. Amid the kitchen’s frenetic energy, I see Tío Willy delicately placing our oysters on a blood orange oval platter, bright yellow lemon slices arranged between the marbled shells. At the table, I watch as others eat theirs first, effortlessly slurping, chewing, and swallowing. I tentatively raise the wave-beaten shell to my lips and follow suit. The intensity of texture and flavor, ocean brine and silky sweetness, leaves me blinded. Three, four, five oysters have the same effect.

It becomes an addiction. I collect the shells off the plates, overcome by excitement and a sense of achievement. My trophies.


We leave Chile four days later, shells jangling in my bright green suitcase despite Mama’s vehement objections. Back home in California, I find broken shards stuck to my shirts and underwear. I throw them out, carefully placing the two that remained intact on my bedside table. One week later, the room reeks of rotten algae and ocean water. Forgetting to rinse out old oyster shells had its cost. I bury them in the backyard, deep beneath the champaca tree’s fragrant magnolia flower, hoping their original charm would somehow return.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Union Oyster House Allie Miller

Just off the path of the Freedom Trail, and

The building has some literal “street cred”

adjacent to the always packed Faneuil Hall,

though: it is the oldest red-brick building

is a slightly less disgusting landmark.

in Boston as well as the oldest restaurant

It’s ye olde Union Oyster House: a piece

in the nation.

of Boston tourism and a finely-tuned

The building itself has stood for more than

seafood institution.

250 years, since the construction of Union

Since 1826, this restaurant has been opening

Street in 1626, just two years after the

up its Monster House doors and slinging out

opening of the Boston Common. Before it

oysters to tourists, locals and celebs. All the

became a seafood house, it was a dry goods

while, it has preserved the original personal-

store known as “At the Sight of the

ity of a distinguished founding father. With

Cornfields.” Knowing this sure makes the

its squat architecture, modest sea-side win-

golden “Ye Olde” on the restaurant sign

dowpanes and body that is 99% red brick,

look less corny.

it feels like eating inside of Samuel Adams-


When it stopped being a local embarrass-

The Union Oyster House has put up with

ment and started serving oysters, it became

its fair share of crap over the years. From

a local watering hole to many classy celebs.

foodie snobbery to under-the-breath com-

Everyday, local firecracker and founding

ments from Marc-e-Marc, it's often ridiculed

father Daniel Webster would have a brandy

for being gimmicky and expensive. However,

and water with a half-dozen oysters, often

MMM HMM Mag tries to be a bully-free

asking for fifth and sixth helpings. Later,

zone, and we don’t want to throw ye olde

Charles Forster of Maine had his invention,

oyster shuckers under the bus. While the

the toothpick, introduced to the world inside

Union Oyster House may be a bit too Bos-

the Union Oyster House. One of the estab-

ton for some, it’s pride in its history should

lishment’s best bragging rights, however, is

be seen as loyalty rather than gimmick.

the long patronage of the Kennedy family. In

Money doesn’t keep buildings (other than

case you forgot about them, there is a booth

the White House) in business for hundreds

dedicated to J.F.K in the upstairs private

of years, but tradition does. The Union Oys-

dining room. Among other famous visitors

ter House is one Boston tradition that we’d

are personal favorites: Ozzie Osbourne, Billy

like to keep.

Crystal and Larry Bird.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



Sophie Lipitz

Mentioned in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and allegedly served at the White House by First Lady Dolley Madison, Oyster Ice cream had its heyday in American history. The recipe for this peculiar dish was first published in Mary Randolph’s highly influential 1824 cookbook: The Virginia Housewife. This seemingly ookie cold treat was made from a frozen strained oyster chowder. By NPR’s Eliza Barclay’s account, in the 18th and 19th centuries a dish of oyster ice cream topped with a single raw oyster on the half-shell would have been an exemplary Thanksgiving day snack.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Oyster Cities: New York and Boston Isabela Celedon



Manhattan’s final local oyster harvest in

According to Frederic S. Cozzens in his

1927. The oyster’s reign was long-lived but

satirical book Sayings, Wise and Other-

had a swift downfall.

wise, the oyster, “originated in Britain, was

The city’s readily available oyster beds made

latinized by the Romans, replevied by the

the slimy creatures a cheap meal for many

Saxons, corrupted by the Teutons and finally

New Yorkers in the late 19th century. They

barbecued by the French.” In the United

were served stewed, pickled, roasted, baked,

States, however, New York City was the

fried, scalloped, and even in soups and pud-

long-time oyster capital: the city’s natural

dings – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

grassy wetlands and tidal basins made it

All-you-can-eat oyster buffets were just six

a perfect home for the peculiar bivalves.

cents in the bustling city, where large quan-

The tradition goes as far back as 6900

tities of the highly nutritious mollusk were

B.C., extending all the way until

readily available for all. In his book The Big

1 Kurlansky, Mark. “’History on the Half Shell’ in ‘Big Oyster,’” Interview by Liane Hansen. The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. National Public Radio. Seattle, Washington, 09 Apr. 2006. Radio. Transcript. 2 Kurlansky, “History on the Half Shell’ in ‘Big Oyster,’” Interview by Liane Hansen. 3 Royte, “The Mollusk That Made Manhattan.”

Oyster: History on the Half Shell, Mark Kurlansky states, “It was one of the few moments in culinary history when a single food, served in more or less the same preparations, was commonplace for all socioeconomic levels.” Additionally, our briny little friends’ common identification as an aphrodisiac pushed their consumption even further. Kurlanksy explains that for a large part of New York City’s history, one could find dingy cellars “where you could get lots of oysters and meet with prostitutes ... You know, they were New York’s two most famous products: oysters and prostitutes.” New York City oysters were not just for local consumption either; many of the city’s mollusks were shipped to the Midwest and all the way to Britain, too. Consequently, around 12 million oysters were sold in 1860 in the city, and by 1880, 700 million were being produced around the area per year. This extreme overconsumption and the subsequent pollution eventually brought the excessive lifestyle to a screeching halt by the early 20th century. Good things rarely last. Their golden years had faded, demand outweighed supply, and soon enough oysters became a rarity in New York City. For the better part of the city’s history, oysters had represented both the common food of the very poor and the prized treat of the very lavish. After their decline, however, they became a largely forgotten piece of the city’s history.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition




was a waste, so in 1734 a ban was passed

New York isn’t the only big city built on

on the industrial use of shells unless the

oysters: colonial Boston’s small roads were

meat was also put to good use. Oysters

paved using oyster shells and even the Old

then began to permeate Massachusetts’

State House’s mortar contains bits of the

culinary traditions. Just as the little crusta-

ancient crustaceans. Beneath the asphalt

cean moved further into Bostonians’ hearts,

sidewalks at the Bunker Hill Monument,

Union Oyster House, the historic restau-

oyster shell shards still coat parts of the

rant that still stands today, began serving in

ground. This is because both the Charles

1826. This iconic landmark, in combination

and Mystic rivers were natural oyster beds,

with the 1884 law allowing individuals to

and, due to limestone’s scarcity in colonial

acquire state-leased oyster beds, sealed the

New England, oyster farming began for

mollusk’s fate as a regional culinary staple.

practical reasons. The calcium carbonate

The natural oyster beds that once took over

in the shells was extracted using kilns and

large sections of the Charles River no longer

then utilized as building material. The

exist, but it’s clear that they were important

Colonial Assembly soon realized that care-

parts of Boston’s culture while they were in

lessly discarding the highly nutritious

use. The oyster banks were so prominent that

(and delicious) meat between those shells

they “obstructed navigation” of the Charles

to 1853, and Cambridge boasts eight oyster purveyors while neighboring Charlestown is home to five. One testimony from the Boston Massacre trial transcriptions also describes oyster shells being thrown along with snowballs just before the outbreak of the event. Not much has been said or written, however, about the decline of the Boston oysters. Many oyster farms still exist in Massachusetts – Duxbury Bay Shellfish, Cottage City Oysters, Cotuit Oyster Company, or Warren Cove Oyster Farm, to name a few – but their ubiquity has undoubtedly faded.

Toward the middle of the 20th century, the United States oyster industry disintegrated due to the Great Depression and the accumulation of toxic waste from the Industrial Revolution. Oysters became scarce and far too expensive; for decades, they were largely ignored. Clean water regulations and large investments in aquaculture changed this, however, and by the beginning of the 21st century the mollusk was back on menus around the country. Now restaurants like Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston or Sel Rrose in New York provide a curated focus on the slimy little creatures. Oysters are no longer the universal culinary staple they once were, but in special places like these, they still find their spot in the limelight.


Massachusetts Oyster Project, “History of Oysters in Boston Harbor” slideshow, Slideshare. 5 H, Mark. “Marine Life Series: The History of Oyster Farming.” Daily Kos. Kos Media, 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 6Massachusetts Oyster Project, “History of Oysters in Boston Harbor.” 8Massachusetts Register of 1853, Massachusetts Oyster Project, “History of Oysters in Boston Harbor.”

and Mystic rivers, according to William Wood’s New England Prospect of 1634. Fast-forward

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


Our Boston Reccomendations


In a day and age where oysters on the halfshell in Boston are just about as common as clam chowder, you may not need help finding these salty treats in Beantown. Regardless, we wanted to share with you our favorite spots:

Those slippery and salty creatures of the muddy seas, those mysteries of the ocean—who would think to crack open that gnarled, muddy shell and slurp the pulsing thing? What really is an oyster? If you’re still feeling a little under-informed about oyster farming and eating, don’t sweat it. Check out these common questions and misconceptions:



dead oysters might leave you feeling less


than chipper. Fresh oysters will be clamped

W&T Seafood does a great job explaining

tightly shut if they’re alive, and gaping open

what a fresh oyster really is, so we’ll let the

with a pungent, not-so-fresh odor if they’re

pros handle this one: “They most certainly

not. But don’t underestimate these little

are, and a good thing too—because eating

guys—some varieties can survive out of the

is seawater” (M&T Seafood). But beyond

in chilled, moist conditions.”

this salty base or “merroir,” oysters have

This singular fact is what makes properly

three categories that define the flavor of an

served oysters on the half shell so fresh—

oyster: taste, texture, and finish. Oysters

your first taste is their last breath.

draw their taste from all flavor dimensions: sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and umami. The


texture of the meat can run from soft and


pliant to crisp and full-bodied. The more

The Chart from Pangea says it all. In the

official categories are: clean, thin, fatty,

shell, oysters taste like the ocean. After all,

tender, or tough. After slurping an oyster,

“the ‘blood’ circulating through an oyster

the finish can leave you with a lingering


Weisbecker, Andy. “Oysters, A Simple Food With a Complicated History.” Food Safety News, 04 Feb. 2010. Web.

water for up to two weeks if kept properly

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


sensation of either a mineral, metallic finish


or a vegetal, fresh finish. Each of these fin-

Yes! Raw oysters have an incredible amount

ishes has countless flavor properties. From

of nutritious value due to their high levels

melon notes to sandstone, this funky crusta-

of Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, selenium, vita-

cean’s finish has incredible finesse. All in

min D, iron, magnesium and phosphorus2.

all, oysters are delicious and unique.

So instead of taking your daily gummy bear

Like people, you’ll never meet two oysters

vitamin, maybe you should consider head-

totally alike.

ing out to your nearest oyster farm to pick some of those beautifully slimy creatures


straight from the sea.



The opportunities are endless!


Though many proclaimed “oyster connois-


seurs” prefer their oysters naked, a few

As long ago as the time of early American

common dressings for the tasty mollusk

settlers, American Indians were said to

are cocktail sauce, mignonette, hot sauce,

have begun warning the Englishmen of

and just straight lemon juice.

what we call today “The R rule”. This rule

Cun, Crystal. “Wild versus Farm-Raised Oysters: Which Are Better?” W&T Seafood, 25 Apr. 2012. 3

advises oyster slurpers to only eat oysters

The second big argument to stay away from

in months that include the letter R ie. not

our slimy friends in the summer is warmth


induced spawning season because a fertile

You may cry: “But what about my mid-july

oyster is not a tasty one. Fortunately, many

bubbly, beach side, summer rosé and book

warm water oysters are bred to be sterile

club chatham tasting?!?”

or triploids. And honestly, the water doesn’t

Fret not! Many modern experts suggest

get too darn warm here in Massachusetts.

that this rule may be outdated. Summer-

Bottom line: Talk to your fishmonger or

time is problematic in the seafood world

server before getting oysters in the summer

for a number of reasons. Foremost among

months. They’ll tell you what’s good. But

these: red tides. Red tide, a phenomenon

don’t sweat over it, R or no R oysters in

that occurs in the summer months, is when

the Northeast are good pretty much all

an algae that is toxic to humans blooms in

year round.

high concentration. If not monitored properly these toxins can slip into your oysters, mussels, and clams and make you feel pretty icky. But these days, harvesting is banned if the algae concentration is too high and our farmed shellfish is carefully inspected for toxin levels.

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



virginica), Pacific (Crassostrea gigas), Kuma-


moto (Crassostrea sikamea), European Flat


(Ostrea edulis), and Olympia (Ostrea con-


chaphila). Within these species, oysters are

Sort of.

usually named after the bay or town that they

Like the five major Italian-American Mafia

hail from, like Totten Inlet Virginicas or New

crime families which dominated organized

Brunswick Flats.(W&T Seafood) Similar to

crime in New York City since the 1930s, there

the concept of terroir which roughly means

are five species of oysters that are commer-

“the food or wine you consume tastes of the

cially cultivated in North America.

earth it is grown in,” oysters are known for their ‘merroir,’ or the affect that the taste of

You can think of [oyster species] as wine

the body of water an oyster is grown in has

grapes, like a merlot or chardonnay, and

on the flavor of the oyster.

though the oysters will taste different


depending on growing practices and region,


there are some common threads between


oysters of the same species. The major

No chance! An oyster only creates a pearl

oyster species are Eastern (Crassostrea

when something really tiny, like a grain of

sand, makes its way between the shell and

between six months and four years, until

the mantle (the shell’s internal protective

they are harvested and later turned into your

layer) – it’s a really rare occurrence. The

grandma’s classiest accessory.

oyster then begins to cover this tiny intruder with nacre (A.K.A mother of pearl) as a


way to relieve discomfort. The nacre builds


up over time, forming layer upon layer of

Well, that depends. In some places, like the

polished, tough substance.

United Kingdom, it’s illegal to eat wild oys-

With the rarity of natural pearls, most

ters. In other places, high levels of pollution

pearls come from farmed oysters. Unlike the

in coastal waters prevent the consumption

oysters raised for our tastebuds’ pleasure,

of wild oysters. (On that note: if you’re

the pearl producing mollusks are genetically

going for a stroll on the sand, don’t pick up

engineered in a lab. The two best oysters are

any old oyster and slurp it down! Food poi-

chosen from a farmer’s current crop to cre-

soning and chemical contamination can get

ate the next generation. Then, instead of a

nasty.) Some of the less friendly harvesting

grain of sand, a tiny glass bead is artificially

processes, like dredging, can be extremely

inserted between the shell and the mantle.

damaging to seafloor habitats. Adult-sized

The pearls continue to grow for anywhere

wild oysters are hard to find, too: only about

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


one in a million survive to be that large3.

get lots of oysters and meet with prostitutes,

All in all, it’s probably best to leave our

and there was always this connection.”

little wild friends alone to prevent overfishing

So if you feel a little frisky after gulping

and the destruction of seafloor habitats.

down a few oysters, maybe something in those briny mollusks did the trick. Or maybe


it was the decades of the socially accepted


idea that oysters—among other seafoods—in-

In an interview with NPR in 2006, Mark

crease one’s desire to get down to funkytown.

Kurlansky, author of The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, explains his point of view on the topic: “I personally think that anything that you believe is an aphrodisiac can be an aphrodisiac. There’s not a lot of

All in all—oysters are complex and fasci-

science to back it up. You know, all through

nating little creatures. If you STILL have

history people have believed that oysters

questions about these gifts of the sea,

were aphrodisiacs, and the fact is that in

reach out to us! MMM HMM would love to

New York City for centuries they had these

hear your feedback.

basement oyster cellars … where you could


Photos by Kaitlin Tsai

MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition



MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


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Liz Walker, Tony Baum, Brendan Collins, Siyuan, Don Merry, Jenn

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MMM HMM Magazine: The Oyster Edition


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Produced in Boston, Ma Spring–Fall 2016 Published in house