BOOK REVIEWS

Mireille Guiliano: Meet Paris Oyster. New York, Grand Central Life & Style, 2014.

As I love oysters this book was a must read but it turned out to be more of a chatty women’s magazine kind of book that seems more interested in the guy who owns the oyster bar the book is basically all about than the oysters that one can find in so many Parisian bars and restaurants. One could say in keeping with certain preconceptionsn that this is typical of the flirtatious French. But the book also contains so many elementary mistakes as well to sow the seeds of doubt about how informed the authoress was of what she was writing. For instance, when writing about taking the oyster from the shell, she says it was detached “from the nerve” – it’s the muscle, not the nerve. Her description of farming methods and its history in France (which is limited to a few pages pp25-27) is full of misleading claims, unfortunately. And in Boticelli’s painting, Aphrodite is not rising out of an oyster shell, although that myth is often repeated by those who never bother checking out the actual painting. Her mentions of Victor Coste, who was commissioned by the Emperor Napoleon to find new methods of oyster cultivation are hardly accurate. She never writes about the toxic debate in France about the use of triploid (ie supposedly sterile) oysters, aka les huîtres des quatre saisons, especially in the Marennes district. She wrongly claims that the Atlantic oyster (C virginica) is cultivated In the south of France as well as the Olympian oyster (O lurida): there are so many strict rules about introducing invasive species. One of the saving graces of the book is that she praises the Danish flat oyster from Limfjorden although she admits she’s never tasted one. But the truth is that it is “probably the best oyster in the world”!

But if you want to read about la petite Huîtrerie Régis on rue Montfaucon and its larger than life owner, then go ahead and buy the book.

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