This is the beach where my grandparents lived – where I spent every school holiday for years – summer, autumn and winter. It is where my mother taught me to open oysters.
We’d walk along the beach to the rocks on the point and sit there just above the waterline, feet dangling in the water, little tiny shells prickling bare skin. She’d pry them off the rocks, open them up, take the oyster from the shell, rinse it in the salty water of the bay tilt her head back and down it went. I was fascinated and finally I accepted her offer to try one.
I was revolted. I was four or five years old.
Later the beach house was sold. It was a very sad, complex time for me being severed from childhood connections.
Eventually I tried oysters again, only we had to pay for them now. They were beautiful, I’d learnt not to chew just to swallow without gagging. And so I became and adult and oysters au naturel was my entree of choice for a long long time.
One evening my lips started tingling, a little at first but it quickly got worse. My throat was closing up and that, too, got worse. I was very, very frightened. It turned out to be an adult onset allergy to oysters and shellfish and I now have to carry an epipen.
But I also carry with me the taste and feel of those Port Stephens oysters as they slid so smoothly down. I can smell the beach and feel the warm sun on my skin as in my mind I watch my mother shuck the oysters and delight in their bliss.
How about you? Can you eat oysters? Do you have delightful memories of things which you can no longer indulge in? Places from your childhood?