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Consider the Oyster

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  788 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
M.F.K. Fisher, whom John Updike has called our "poet of the appetites," here pays tribute to that most delicate and enigmatic of foods---the oyster. As she tells of oysters found in stews, in soups, roasted, baked, fried, prepared à la Rockefeller or au naturel--and of the pearls sometimes found therein--Fisher describes her mother's joy at encountering oyster loaf in a gi ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by North Point Press (first published 1941)
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John E. Branch Jr.
This exceedingly modest book (a mere 77 pages) presented me with some modest, unexpected dilemmas. Seeing it in a book swap and recalling, from an encounter years ago, that I was determined to read one of her volumes someday, I picked it up, thinking I'd breeze through it and return it to the swap--I'm trying to pare my library. But I find I don't want to let go of it. Now the question is whether it belongs in my kitchen with the cookbooks (because it does contain recipes) or somewhere among the ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book both introduced me to and sparked my love of oysters and also of MFK Fisher, whom W. H. Auden called "America's greatest writer...."

"An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life. Indeed, his chance to live at all is slim, and if he should survive the arrows of his own outrageous fortune and in the two weeks of his carefree youth find a clean smooth place to fix on, the years afterwards are full of stress, passion and danger. . . ."

"Men have enjo
Aug 24, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing
MFK Fisher is my new girl crush. Just look at her. This book really is just about oysters and I wish there was more. Fisher is sharp, snobby and super funny. She has included several recipes. My favorite is To Make a Pearl. In the list of ingredients, 1 diving-girl.
Everett Darling
Mar 04, 2012 Everett Darling rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I identify with Consider the Oyster on a personal level, having grown up on the Atlantic and later Pacific coasts, and having had gastronomical and what could be considered professional contact with oysters all my life. I enjoyed her stories, second-hand tales, and explanations but I didnt enjoy her gender-rific use of "man" and "men" to describe traits of people, or human truths or whatever - my sister loves oysters more than I do, theres no reason why she shouldnt include my sister, and women ...more
Desiree Koh
Oct 16, 2015 Desiree Koh rated it it was amazing
As long as it takes for an oyster to slowly evolve its way into crispness/liquoric stupor/optimal salinity is about as long as you'd want to linger over every word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter of this book. Fisher takes her time to nudge descriptions into succinctness, whether directly narrating factual foundations or musing in the heavens of magical realism laced with truth. It's the literary equivalent of slow food, proving there are two sides (probably more) to every bivalve story.
Galen Sanford
May 16, 2014 Galen Sanford rated it it was amazing
Oct 02, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: culinary
After reading this book, I had two thoughts: MFK Fisher is a crazy, snobby old loon; and would I ever love to sit next to her at a dinner party. Her writing is witty, knowledgeable and from a different era. There are great recipes; the one on oyster loaves was the most tantalizing to me. At about 75 pages, this book is an easy read. I would read other stuff by this looney old girl.
Jul 30, 2010 Nat added it
I learned that you can make an "oyster loaf" by slicing off the top of a loaf of crusty bread, jamming a bunch of fried oysters in there, covering everything with butter, and then sticking it back in the oven. Sounds tasty.

Also, I (think I) learned that oysters are alive when you eat them raw.
Jan 01, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-non-fiction
A nice little book, perfect for reading today. The authors experiences of global oyster eating seem to surpass my own, yet I am surprised at her opinion that Chesapeake and waters farther south hold second rate bivalves while every other oyster was superbly to her taste. I have eaten oysters in France and England, and several areas of our west coast whose taste was less pleasing than my favorite of all, Apalachicola Bay oysters. I was weened on Chesapeake Bay seafood and have eaten especially fi ...more
Aug 08, 2007 Brad rated it really liked it
Shelves: gastronomy
Mandatory reading for the ostriavore. Includes colorful recipes, polemics and oysterlore.
Hilary Hanselman
Jul 15, 2015 Hilary Hanselman rated it really liked it
A delicious morsel of a book.

"It should be opened at street temperature in a cool month, never iced, and plucked from its rough irregular shell at once, so that its black gills still vibrate and cringe with the shock of the air upon them. It should be swallowed, not too fast, and then its fine salt juices, more like the smell of rock pools at low tide than any other food in the world, should be drunk at one gulp from the shell. Then, of course, a bite or two of buttered brown bread must follow,
Jan 20, 2016 Fishface rated it liked it
Leave it to MFK Fisher to write a whole book on Oysters. She was apparently a devoted consumer of these unlucky shellfish, typical of her "I'll eat anything" motto in life. She covers -- you should pardon the expression -- the entire waterfront with this book, with recipes for everything from Oyster Loaf to Hang Town Fry as well as all the mythology and folk beliefs about the benefits of eating screaming, live protoplasm cut out of the shell.
Jun 23, 2015 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Mary Frances Kennedy (MFK) Fisher is a delight to read and she is growing on me with each volume of hers that I take up. She has a very wry sort of humor that is often in evidence, but she also shares her bittersweet memories with us too. Don't let this slim volume fool you. It's not a recipe book, although it contains a number of recipes which round out her wonderful musings on The Oyster!
A food and travel writer of the first order, I have yet to read any food or travel writing quite like hers.
Feb 09, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely, lovely classic M.F.K. Fisher.
You will crave a visit to New Orleans after finishing this book just to sit at the bar and sip fresh oyster water straight from the shell with a stiff drink. Foodies: this is one of the must-reads for 20th century American food writing and the lyrical essay.
Apr 01, 2016 Crystal rated it really liked it
There was one that stood out to me most: Pearls Are Not Good to Eat. It gave me an idea for a poem and so far that, I give this four stars.

I will most likely give the oyster a shot after this.
Sep 12, 2014 Zovig rated it liked it
A series of anecdotes and musings about oysters as food, this book has Fisher's delightful tone and erudition, but, it's a little thin. It did make me want to eat oysters really badly, though.
Jan 13, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
Recommended to Jessica by: Every foodie I've ever talked to. ever.
Shelves: non-fiction
Unfortunately this does not hold up well. The language is dated (and a little pompous) and there are tons of time sensitive references that you will only get if you've deeply immersed yourself in 1940s/1950s pop and socialite cultures (and I haven't). The actual information one can glean about oysters is interesting and some of the recipes look like they'd be fun to try just for the sake of doing it. Her writing about eating and cooking - when she's not making it "relevant" to her day and age - ...more
Jul 04, 2014 Elliot rated it really liked it
I really enjoy the writing style of M.F.K. Fisher, and this book is a very quick read on a topic I find very interesting. However, I found the concentration on recipes a bit frustrating.
Feb 24, 2015 Greg rated it liked it
Unfortunately, my experience with oysters doesn't extend much beyond the canned and smoked variety on top of a cracker, but now I'm hungry for something more. As usual, Fisher salts her work with unusual facts, charming anecdotes and beautiful writing, a recipe that will keep me coming back for more.
Nov 21, 2015 g rated it liked it
My colleague charmed me the other day when, in a confiding mood, she told me the story of tasting her first oyster on the half shell. She was in her early twenties when she was invited to a fancy catered party. The host, an oysterphiliac, caught wind of my colleague's oyster virginity and insisted, publicly, that she try one. With the spotlight on her, my colleague gamely tipped an oyster down her throat. Her cheeks promptly burned a shameful red. You see, her mind had leapt to an unexpected ana ...more
Apr 25, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
I have never eaten oysters before but after reading this book, I would like to try them. Enjoyed her writing very much!
Sep 24, 2015 Chrissy rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-books
I wish I liked this more. It was entertaining and it made me hungry. I did enjoy how she wrote as half cookbook and half memoir.
Oct 29, 2014 Kathy rated it liked it
made me very nostalgic for eating oysters. learned a fair bit, too.
Jan 17, 2016 Emmaline rated it really liked it
I was so happy to finally read this. I've wanted to for quite some time, especially after reading a biography of M.F.K. Fisher (she wrote Consider the Oyster for her dying partner, Dillwyn Parrish), but it wasn't available on Kindle. Finally, I received a copy of the physical book. It's a thin little volume, but so witty and richly written. Totally classic M.F.K. Fisher. Made me crave oysters like hell.
May 05, 2015 Courtney rated it it was amazing
Absolutely delightful.
May 20, 2015 Liz rated it really liked it
MFK Fisher is at the very top of my fantasy dinner party invitation list.
Feb 17, 2009 Tora rated it really liked it
a fun, quick read of stories and entertaining anecdotes surrounding the fragile yet winning life of the oyster. if you love food and oysters (like i do), then you'd dig it. if not, then prob not your cup o' tea. unless you like to cook. then you wanna pick this book up and try some of the yum delish recipes that involve - what else? - the dear oyster.
Jan 26, 2009 Frank rated it liked it
Nice blend of detail, fact, opinion and attitude. Lots of good old recipes -- soup, loaf, fancy, plain... MFK's quite the wit and she does her research, often with gusto. The only possible crit I can come up with is that this book hasn't been updated since 1954, but that just adds to its charm I'm afraid.
Jun 16, 2015 Mandie rated it really liked it
A fun read. M.F.K. Fisher's poetic description of oysters and their consumption made this little book a quick read. And almost made we wish I liked oysters!
May 31, 2013 Jacqie rated it liked it
This a tiny little book, only 77 pages long. It is, literally, just about the oyster. I like M.F.K. Fisher's writing style, but to really enjoy her I think I'll have to read another book, because I don't really like oysters. I'm one of those who will eat them cooked but not raw, definitely an amateur.
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Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was a prolific and well-respected writer, writing more than 20 books during her lifetime and also publishing two volumes of journals and correspondence shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books deal primarily with food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy. Fisher ...more
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