With or Without Lemon

In English, the sauces and condiments that come with oysters are called “accoutrements”, which means ‘costume’ or ‘silly outfit’ in French, making it sound like oysters are somehow ridiculous if they’re not naked.

With or without lemon?

In the past, to test whether a bushel of oysters was living or not, people would take one or two out, open them, and splash on a liberal amount of lemon juice or vinegar. If they reacted, it proved they were still fresh, if not, they wouldn’t be eaten. Is this the reason people always serve lemon with oysters?

Today, oyster connoisseurs think differently: oysters should be eaten plain, and that’s that! They think lemon wedges, mignonette dressing, and pepper grinders should be banned from any oyster bar.  These condiments supposedly cover up and change the natural taste of the oyster, just like the wine you drink with them.

But it’s not as simple as that. On one hand, it seems that some oysters hold up better than others to seasoning, while on the other, many culinary traditions exist for a reason. For our English friends – who call these different condiments accoutrements – there’s nothing heretical or ridiculous about adding a little lemon, Worcestershire sauce, or chilli sauce to an oyster. On the contrary, this adds another layer to their flavour.

Isn’t it just as unusual to alternate between eating raw oysters and pieces of chipolata sausage or hot crépinettes? This is how they’re eaten in the Bordeaux region, creating a delicious balance between the flavours of the land and sea.

Whether or not you yourself are a purist, at Les Huîtres de St-Clément, we believe that oysters are a treat no matter how you eat them and we serve each platter of oysters with… lemon.

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