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How oysters turned from food of the poor to a delicacy around the world

26.11.2021, 14: 05 EST

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English writer Charles Dickens wrote in the XNUMXth century: "Poverty and oysters always go hand in hand." But in the twentieth century, the situation changed dramatically. How oysters from the food of the poor became an expensive delicacy around the world, the portal figured out

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France is considered the birthplace of oyster fishing. But if it were not for Catherine de Medici, a native of Florence, the French might not have become the main lovers of oysters. It was the 14-year-old princess who taught the local courtiers to eat these mollusks. However, popularity has played a cruel joke with them.

Foreign princess food

Oysters have been eaten for over 2000 years. The first, at least in Europe, they were tasted by the ancient Romans. They also learned to transport these molluscs in aquariums to keep them fresh. Then oysters found their way into Italian cuisine, and from there into French.

According to the popular version, oysters appeared at the French court thanks to the native of Florence, Catherine de Medici. In 1533, she married the future French king Henry II and brought with her skilled Italian chefs. And along with them - new recipes and products. Parsley, artichokes, lettuce, broccoli, turkey, tomato, oysters, as well as the main stars of Italian cuisine - pasta and parmesan - appeared on French tables.

At the wedding of Catherine and Heinrich, the French for the first time tried an amazing Italian dessert made from fruit and ice - ice cream. Catherine also allegedly taught the French, who ate with their hands, how to use cutlery, including a fork.

The Encyclopedia of Sciences, Arts and Crafts, which Denis Diderot and Jean Leron d'Alembert began to produce in 1751, said that various delights were in French cuisine along with the “crowds of Italians” who served at the Medici court. However, many culinary historians believe that borrowing from Italian cuisine began even before Catherine. After all, she came to France 14-year-old girl and for a long time had no influence at the royal court.

The most prestigious dish

Oysters, as well as mussels and snails, have become firmly established in French cuisine. Until the XNUMXth century, oysters remained the most popular food available to all segments of the population. In wealthy houses, they prepared a variety of dishes: baked in pies, stuffed a bird with them, or simply ate dozens of them.

For the poor, oysters were substituted for meat. Similar was the case in Britain, with mountains of oyster shells lining the streets in poor London neighborhoods. You can verify this by opening the novel by Charles Dickens "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club." There is such a dialogue of heroes:

“A very remarkable circumstance, sir,” said Sam, “that poverty and oysters always go hand in hand.”
“I don't understand you, Sam,” Mr. Pickwick replied.
“I mean, sir,” Sam said, “the poorer the place, the greater the demand for oysters. Look, sir, there is an oyster stall for every five or six houses here. The street is littered with them. I should fail on the spot, but it seems that when a person is very poor, he runs out of the house and in regular despair eats oysters.

The hero of Dickens did not lie: in Victorian England, a dozen oysters cost 4 a penny - twice as much as a loaf of bread.

End of abundance

In the XNUMXth century, oysters suddenly "ran out." The year-round hunt for shellfish has led to the fact that they began to disappear. The French authorities imposed restrictions on fishermen - they banned fishing for oysters from April to October. But this did not save the situation. By the XNUMXth century, oysters had finally ceased to be a cheap food and turned into a delicacy. The fact that in the XNUMXth century the French conducted the first successful experiments on breeding oysters and now they are bred in many countries did not help either.

Nowadays, Pacific oysters cost at least $ 8-10 per dozen. This is if you buy in a store, and not in a restaurant. The only thing that has not changed is the main places of extraction (and later breeding) of oysters in Europe. They have remained unchanged since the time of the Roman Empire - this is the western coast of modern France and the waters off the British Isles.

In the US, oysters are also grown. The oyster breeding industry is rapidly gaining momentum in Maryland. They are bred under 300 licenses issued on the territory of 1456 ha in the Chesapeake Bay, both in the water and at the bottom of the bay.

Recall, a team of American and Italian scientists has scientifically proven that oysters contain rare amino acids that increase the content of sex hormones. Oyster meat contains protein, fat, glycogen carbohydrate, minerals (iron, zinc, copper, calcium, iodine, phosphorus), nicotinic acid, and the vitamins B1, B2, B12, and PP. Total 6 oysters - and the body's daily need for iron and copper is provided.

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