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Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm Hardcover – October 11, 2011
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“While most books about oysters tell people what they want to hear, Shucked tells it like it is: the frigid winter days on the water with hands like popsicles, the backbreaking work, the anxiety of nurturing thousands of dollars' worth of oyster seed, the hard-partying nights. Erin Byers Murray captures the seasonal rhythms of the New England coast and the romance of one exceptional company's efforts to coax great food from the sea. You'll never take an oyster for granted again.” ―Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography of Oysters
“Part adventure, part memoir, part culinary awakening, Erin Byers Murray's rite of passage from novice to connoisseur takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the world of the oyster. On the way, she gives us pearls of wisdom and wit--both served up on the half shell. Cocktail sauce is optional but don't miss this book.” ―Christopher White, author of Skipjack: The Story of America's Last Sailing Oystermen
“Part of the book's charm is following Murray through the process of becoming aware of her surroundings in working directly with an edible product. Readers who enjoy Linda Greenlaw's writing...will appreciate Murray's offering of just enough information to allow them to become knowledgeable in all things oyster without overdoing it. ...Murray's portrayal of her personal response to life's changes and challenges will hold readers' interest. An entertaining and informative firsthand experience of the locavore movement.” ―Library Journal
“Murray's own love of food and food writing informs the narrative, and she skillfully dramatizes the scenes of summertime sowing and depicts her many colorful co-workers. Murray eschews poetic waxing on her subject and focuses closely on the action and the hard, hard work of farming, closing each chapter with a broad range of oyster recipes.” ―Publishers Weekly
“...a new understanding of locavorism and an appreciation for tradition.” ―The Sacramento Bee
About the Author
ERIN BYERS MURRAY is a Boston area journalist, specializing in food and wine writing. Most recently, she was the Boston editor for DailyCandy.com. Her work as been published in the Boston Globe, Food and Wine, Boston Magazine, Bon Appetit, and many more. Visit her at shucked.wordpress.com.
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About 2/3s way through she basically reverts to writing about all her encounters with the "fabulous" elite of celebrity chefs and restauranteurs. At this point she simply gushes over her subjects and her being included in whatever scene she is lucky enough to be part of. We get to read breathless lines like: "...a very special appearance from super chef Daniel Boulud, who, during one of his swings through the party, jumped behind the raw bar to shuck oysters with us....Boulud was a party animal whose presence ... turned the crowd from vaguely entertained to hog wild."
"By now I was fully enamored of his style of cooking; by opening a Latin-inspried restaurant he'd completely stolen my heart."
I mean, really?
At that point it will occur to you that perhaps you have picked up a different book for your read on the train to work; what happened to the book about working on an oyster farm? How did we get back to this pampered woman, when she was beginning to show such promise as a serious person? I can't answer that, but I hope she can really learn to stop writing as if she is on the staff of Boston Magazine. There is potential there.
I expected to learn a lot about what it takes to get an oyster from tide to plate, and I wasn't disappointed--Murray's funny and thoroughly unglamorous view of the mucky tides and chilly days out on the oyster float have given me a whole new appreciation for just how much work goes into that satisfying slurp. What I didn't expect was how personal this book would be--the author opens up about her own difficulties and triumphs adjusting to life exposed to the elements, her conflicts and confederacies with the rowdy mostly-male crew of the oyster growers, and the strain her new life put on her marriage with disarming honesty and humor, making the reader ask him or herself what s/he'd do to follow a crazy dream in order to concoct a new definition of happiness.
My one criticism is that there wasn't enough about the history and lore of oysters (I could be wrong, but I don't think the word "aphrodisiac" is even mentioned!) Towards the end, Murray writes about an oyster primer she made for the staff of the new Island Creek Oyster Bar the company opened, and I found myself wishing she'd included part of it in the book itself. Maybe it could be an appendix in the paperback!
But bottom line: if you care about oysters, or just about stories of personal transformation, you'll find yourself flying through the pages of this book. And maybe even wishing you could throw on some waders and join the harvest on the next low tide.
Most recent customer reviews
Could smell the salt air , feel the cold water of the bay
And in hot summer evening taste the cold beer and...Read more