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Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover's World Tour Hardcover – January 20, 2009

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Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover's World Tour + A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America + The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, January 2009: Once called "the Indiana Jones of food writers," Texan Robb Walsh has developed a cult of devoted readers who have ridden shotgun with him on his obsessive culinary adventures--from the quest for the perfect cup of coffee, to barbecue battles, to Dr. Pepper bootleggers. Who better then to take a five-year quest in search of the perfect oyster, "the world's most profitable aphrodisiac," than the James Beard Award-winning author, who hangs his hat as the restaurant critic for The Houston Press and has written several books, including Are You Really Going to Eat That? and The Tex-Mex Cookbook. Sex, Death, and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover's World Tour chronicles a global culinary road trip that takes Walsh from his local Galveston Bay to the coasts of North America, and off to Ireland, England, and France. Fact-filled and laced throughout with his wry humor, Walsh recounts the hundreds of oysters shucked and prepared in myriad ways, and offers a fascinating history that goes beyond the expected, revealing coastal rivalries, recipes, shucking tips, and what to drink with your oyster. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly

Food writer Walsh (Tex-Mex Cookbook) catches the oyster-eating bug while on a reporting assignment in Galveston Bay, Tex. Writing at first about the Texas coastal environment, he seeks to understand the bacterial risks of eating fresh raw mollusks. En route, he becomes a lover and defensive champion of Crassostrea virginica, the great American oyster, which is harvested primarily on the eastern and Gulf coasts. He works his way from New Orleans to New York City, comparing differences in oyster quality and flavor from water to water and—importantly—season to season. Broader species sampling requires traveling the Pacific Northwest, then crossing the Atlantic to Ireland, England and France. Along the way Walsh covers molluscan history, trade and aquaculture. Ample oyster facts, figures and literary lore flesh out a book that at times discloses surprising and complex economic and social connections between mollusk supply and demand and at others is a slightly by-the-numbers food history. He lists the oyster bars visited in the course of the book—along with a several recipes—which will whet the appetites of aficionados. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582434573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582434575
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robb Walsh is a three-time James Beard Journalism Award winner, the author of a dozen books about food and a partner in El Real Tex-Mex Café in Houston's Montrose neighborhood. Walsh is also a co-founder of Foodways Texas, a non-profit dedicated to preserving Texas food history headquartered at UT Austin.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By B. Robison on January 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robb Walsh's latest book, "Sex, Death & Oysters," confirms my growing conviction that he is the Bill Bryson of food writers. Funny, informative, full of insight and personal adventure, the book is, as its subtitle states, a "half-shell lover's world tour." Walsh, the restaurant critic of the Houston Press and author of "The Texas Cowboy Cookbook" takes us to the great oysters regions of the world -- Galveston Bay in Texas, Apalachicola Bay in Florida, the Pacific Northwest, the coast of Louisiana, Galway Bay in Ireland, England's Thames Estuary, Cancale, France, among others.

Everywhere he travels Walsh approaches his molluscan subject in the manner of his previous work, be it Texas barbecue, cowboy cooking or Tex-Mex. That is, food in the context of a region's culture, its identity and social history, as well as the food itself and how to prepare it. He visits with restaurateurs, he talks to experts and people in the business of oyster culture, he goes to festivals, he rides on oyster boats (he was on an oyster lug in Galveston Bay when it got raided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for harvesting violations). The result is a captivating mix of biology and ecology, history, cantankerous personalities, love story and personal odyssey.

His girlfriend and later wife, Kelly, accompanies him on many of his travels. Walsh diplomatically discusses the valdity of the claim of oysters' aphrodisiac power. (Walsh tends toward the belief that they are an aphrodisiac, but concedes that further "undercover" research is needed.) Walsh skillfully captures the eccentricity, indeed, the weirdness, of people whose lives revolve around the oyster.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Florida Escape Artist on September 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you agree with the lyrical dining philosophy put forth by the king of saltwater pursuits himself, Jimmy Buffett, "Give me oysters and beer, for dinner every day of the year, and I'll feel fine," then you will absolutely love this book. However, if you are more of the "turf" set and less of the "surf" set, Robb Walsh's dogged pursuit into the fascinating world of oysters might be lost on you. Since I am definitely of the "surf" set myself, I found myself enjoying this fun read immensely. I highly recommend picking this one up for a final summer beach read, as you will find as I did, that nothing compares with kicking back in a beach chair, listening to the ocean waves, and vicariously eating your way through the oyster universe with this passionate food journalist. He will have you laughing out loud and rooting him on as he goes from qualifying for the 15 dozen Wall of Fame at New Orleans' Acme's Oyster House, to an enlightening interview with a 9th generation Connecticut oysterman (I didn't even know "oysterman" was word), to being sequestered behind the velvet rope at the pompish parade known as the Colchester Oyster Feast (where only half of the regalia-clad guest order oysters). You will feel like an oyster eating sidekick as Walsh skillfully includes his readers in the gastronomic details of this whirlwind global half shell feast. Walsh doesn't muddle up the oyster eating experience with crackers, or cocktail sauce. He prefers his oysters straight, and he delivers this book in the same refreshing style. You will be seduced by his unabashed love for the humble Gulf Coast oyster. In his determined efforts to champion the much maligned southern crustacean, he charismatically enlightens his reader to the misnomers, and the prejudices that have arisen around the Gulf oyster bounty.Read more ›
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Will on February 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
Although this is presented as a thorough treatise on the history of as well as the current state of oyster culture and culturing around the world, the author is remiss in not having travelled to the Chesapeake Bay region to look at the situation, past an present, there (here actually from my point of view). Rather, when he does mention it, he does so only to dismiss it as all but completely failed due to agricultural runoff. While only a tiny fraction of prior years, harvests of O. Virginicus continue and acquaculture of oysters is struggling but continuing and increasing as well. Additionally, the rich history of Chesapeake oystering culture is completely absent from this work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Henri IV on September 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like buying oysters at the Saturday morning market in front of the Mairie of the 4th arondissement in Paris, taking them home, and swallowing them with a bit of lemon juice. They are heavenly. They are sold by size, and I usually get the threes. There is one vendor who will shuck them for you, and if you take her your plate, she'll return it to you a bit later, after she has had a few free moments, with a lovely arrangement of half shells. Around the holidays, lots of the bistros have tables outside covered with ice and oysters of all different sizes, all labeled. I really didn't know anything about the different varieties, but after reading this book, I do. I will be a much better consumer of oysters this coming holiday season. Nor did I know why one was not supposed to eat oysters in months with an "R"--and the best fish vendors in Paris don't sell oysters in the summertime. Now I understand the issue. The more one knows about anything, the more interesting that thing becomes. I am eager to sample all of the oyster varieties now. This is a really interesting book. I read it on the Kindle, but it is one of the few books I would have preferred in hard copy, so I could easily thumb through it to re-read some of the lists and descriptions.
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