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Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover's World Tour Hardcover – January 20, 2009
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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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Robb Walsh invites the reader on a meandering journey through oyster reefs in Texas, oyster bars in Louisiana, an oyster festival in England, a shucking competition in Ireland, and fine restaurants in France. "Sex, Death and Oysters" provides illustrations of the various species of oysters, charts the quantities of oysters collected in various regions, details the reproductive cycles of oysters, and recites historical facts about oysters going back to the ancient Roman empire.
Amidst the collection of facts about oysters, Robb Walsh makes keene observations about culture noting a sign saying "Show us your tits" in an oyster bar in Louisiana as well as pointing out the complicated dynamics of commercial oyster production in Ireland for the French market. Robb Walsh enjoys oysters with wine in France as much as he does with cold beer in Texas demonstrating a love for food in its variety of forms. Through his writing, oysters on the half shell expose not only their tender sweet flesh, but also how oyster farms shape culture, producers manipulate nature, and salesmen milk the market for profit.
The book meanders so much and covers so many facts, I found myself at times wading in murky waters. Each article in Robb Walsh's "Are You Really Going To Eat?" so often end with a clear punch that I expected "Sex, Death and Oysters" to do the same. I don't know if the longer form was more challenging for Robb Walsh or if I just had false expectations. Probably the latter. After all, I think the point is to get into the water, murky as it is, and come out with a few choice oysters.
Professionally, I am enamored by and entrenched in the business. My specialties are a bit broader than the oyster, but still account for roughly 33% of my day to day. I work with now or have crossed paths with several of the people interviewed in the book, such accurate writing, it gives credibility to everything else in the chapters that I am less acquainted with.
Can't say enough about it, all too thrilled.
American Mussel Harvesters, Inc.