Do you know why people think shellfish are aphrodisiac? Our writer Ignasi Mora believes he found the answer in a restaurant in Barcelona...
“OYYYYSTERS!” announces a very central restaurant of Barcelona. The sign is so gaudy it makes you think they only serve oysters. A waiter is opening handfuls of them in the main door of the restaurant, each one costing €1.50. But forget prices and bland journalism, I enter the establishment on the calle Ferrán and ask for a dozen oysters.
I understand, dear reader, that you feel a reasonable envy. Less reasonable, if I asked for another dozen, because shellfish - or so they say – sit badly in the stomach.
I do not accompany them with the classic cava, but with a red wine of 14.50 euros. And having given in to the temptation of eating such a dangerous delight, I decide to add to it other shellfish and more wine, until I consider myself completely hedonistic.
“Do you generally enjoy oysters?” a neighbour asks spontaneously, leaning towards my table, a person eating alone like I am, and perhaps also as euphorically epicurious as I.
“Yes Mister, I like oysters. But besides, I have been entrusted with a mission to write about shellfish,” I answer him.
“Great topic!” my neighbour exclaims. “If I was a young journalist, I would have sought on the Internet the first descriptions of shellfish I could find and I would now be writing an article on the classes of shellfish, production, and consumption...but I, on the other hand, am inspired more to eat them.”
“That is perfectly normal. Now look, I will tell you a secret about shellfish. I am more than certain that shellfish are an aphrodisiac. But do you know why?”
“I suppose because they contain some substance that...or because it they are so expensive they add an aphrodisiac substance to justify the price?”
“No, you are wrong.”
“Or because shellfish are so delicious but so monstrous because they suggest a most unconscious intimacy?”
“No! error, error, error!”
“But imagine yourself enclosed in a room with prawns and shrimps strolling about, spider crabs on the ceiling, barnacles climbing up your leg, with an orchestra of shellfish playing, clams, oysters and mussels opening and closing? Wouldn’t it be a nightmare?”
“Nightmares are surely the antithesis of aphrodisiacs, Mister.”
“So you do not want to believe, therefore, that the shape of the bivalves recall certain intimate female parts...?”
“I’m not that crude. Do you want me to tell you?”
“If you are so compelled...”
“The first man who dared to eat the monstrous delights that are shellfish, found them of such extraordinary flavour that he thought that the only superior pleasure that could be experienced was the one that is only obtained inside a woman.
And the other men believed him and they left to test his theory. Therefore, one topic became bound with the other, and they named it an aphrodisíac.”
My table neighbour laughs heartily.
“Do you know how can we finish this party?” he asks when he manages to rein in his laughter.
“You are not suggesting...?”
“What do you think I’m implying?”
“I’m not saying anything, it’s the oysters!” –We must finish the party with a dozen more! Waiter, oooyyysters!
They are so inviting!”
Calendar of the principal shellfish
Spring: clams, Dublin Bay prawns or scampi, oysters
Summer: clams, cockles, lobster, sea-snails (whelks, periwinkle, etc), langoustines, mussels, razor shells, barnacles, oysters
Autumn: cockles, lobster, shrimps, langoustines, scallops
Winter: clams, crayfish, shrimps, spider crab, sea urchins, small crabs, scallops
This article refers always to wild shellfish, not artificially grown but collected from the seabed, and the timing is always approximate. Shellfish change according to the sea – that is, if the shellfish of the Mediterranean travel further afield, they coincide in part with the Atlantic supplies, although some species are common to both regions. If you visit a restaurant or fish market along the coast, you would be wise to eat following the habits of the locals.