Oyster

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Reaktion Books, Nov 4, 2004 - Art - 240 pages
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As everybody knows, oysters are the ultimate aphrodisiac. Casanova is said to have eaten 50 raw oysters every morning with his mistress of the moment, in a bathtub designed for two. Whether oysters truly have exciting properties is open to debate, but like all seafoods, they contain high amounts of phosphorus and iodine, which are believed to be conducive to stamina. Author and food expert M.F.K. Fisher wrote: "There are many reasons why an oyster is supposed to have this desirable quality . . . Most of them are physiological, and have to do with an oyster’s odour, its consistency, and probably its strangeness."

As well as an aphrodisiac, the oyster has since the earliest times been an inspiration to philosophers, artists, poets, chefs, gourmets, epicures and jewellers. It has been pursued by poachers and thieves, and defended by oyster-police and parliaments.

In Oyster, literary historian and radio broadcaster Rebecca Stott tells the extraordinary story of the oyster and its pearl, revealing how this curious creature has been used and depicted in human culture and what it has variously meant to those who have either loved or loathed it: the Romans carried much-sought-after British oysters across the Alps on the backs of donkeys to be eaten as delicacies at banquets in Rome, whilst by contrast Woody Allen once famously said "I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead – not sick, not wounded – dead."

Using many unusual images and anecdotes, Oyster will appeal to oyster lovers and haters everywhere, and for those too who have an interest in the way animals such as the oyster have woven themselves into the fabric of our culture.
 

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Contents

Oyster Biographies
13
Oyster Culture
34
The Rise and Fall of the Oyster
54
Oysters and Gluttony
83
Oyster Flesh Desire and Abjection
101
Oyster Philosophies
116
Oyster Arts
131
Oysters Sex and Seduction
155
Timeline
210
References
212
Bibliography
220
Recipes
223
Restaurants
229
Acknowledgements
233
Photo Acknowledgements
234
Index
237

Pearl
171
Tonguing Oysters
204

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About the author (2004)

Rebecca Stott is Professor in the Department of English and Drama, Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge, and is the author and co-author of many books including The Fabrication of the Late Victorian Femme Fatale (1992), Darwin and the Barnacle (2003) and Theatres of Glass: The Woman who Brought the Sea to the City ( 2003).