When people think of the Langue D’Oc, they often think of wine (for me, that’s a crisp dry Rosé on a hot summer’s day). They usually don’t think of oysters (huîtres en Francáis), but Langue D’Ocians have been harvesting and eating oysters since at least 600 BC , and ostréiculture (oyster farming) has long been both a tradition and an important part of the economy. Indeed, many villages and towns have annual oyster festivals, the best known being the annual Fete in Langue D’Oc’s oyster capital, Bouzigues. Don’t worry if you miss the Fete, fantastic shellfish is always to be found in Bouzigues!
Me, I look forward all year to feasting on des huitres on the beaches of the Hereault, one of my favorite regions of the Langue D’Oc. The oysters are farmed in l’Ètang du Thau, a large of a string of estuaries that run from the estuary of the Rhône River to the Spanish border.
The French at oysters year round, and they are particularly popular at Christmas. Mediterranean oysters are considered to be at their peak from September-May because the warmer waters of the summer months are said to produce a brinier taste. I have eaten and loved them at all times of the year. My palette must not be as refined!
I love Langue D’Oc oysters paired paired with a crisp, cold Rosé. The French eat oysters with butter, red wine vinegar, lemon and bread (just like The Walrus and the Carpenter), and that’s how I eat them when I’m here. No hot sauce!
On my way back from la plage (the beach), I often stop at my favorite magasine des huiîtres (oyster shop) for a dozen meaty, slightly briny Mediterranean oysters.
Oysters are usually eaten raw, but there are other preparations. Pictured above are Oysters aux Bechemal. The oysters are first steamed,then topped with Bechemal sauce and a sprinkling of bread crumbs and finally lightly broiled. I lack a superlative to describe how delicious these are!
Mark Twain said “twas a brave man who first ate an oyster.” Whoever that man was, he has my gratitude!