Friday, April 8, 2011

Want: Oysters?

While Dr. Youman was certainly a smart cookie with lots of valuable things to say, the Dictionary of Every-day Wants is not without its WTF moments. Take, for example, today’s entry: “Oysters—are they healthy?”

Here’s what I know about oysters: they’re disgusting, icky splats of bottom-feeding mucus, and people tend to eat them not only raw, but alive. Youman, with his scientific bent, knows a lot more: Their juice is teeming with an assortment of microscopic animals, worms, and baby oysters—shell and all.

At first blush this seems laughably improbable, like Sarah Palin being a good president. And yet Mark Kurlansky’s 2007 The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell corroborates Youman’s seemingly fanciful tale. Oysters release eggs, Kurlansky reports, which in some species are then fertilized and grow, shell and all, inside the mother’s shell for several days before striking out on their own.

Youman is a tiny bit off the mark on one point, though; this only happens in European oysters, a fact that goes unmentioned in this book intended for an American audience. Breeds native to American waters release their eggs, which are then fertilized and grow externally. (Who knew?)

Whether oysters can actually glow in dark, I’m not so sure. This guy is, though.

This entry doesn’t really answer the question it poses: Are oysters healthy? But between the worms and the animalculae, I would say it leans toward no. And yet, what’s the very next entry?


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