The Compleat Imbiber No. 16

The dishwasher is knackered so I have just completed my second round of washing up for the evening and the fourth of the last two days. Kids everywhere are burying their heads in revision and have no time to help.

By way of compensation another copy of The Compleat Imbiber arrived in this mornings post. One of the joys and great dangers of Amazon is having an impossibly large second bookshop at the end of your fingers and so I discovered there were a number of editions that could be had in good condition for £0.01p or thereabouts plus postage & packing. Let us see what arrives tomorrow.

This was the last edition published soon after Cyril Ray died. There is a great story on oysters some of which is worth sharing.

We came upon a place where the oysters grew, packed together close as grapes. My companion put the basket on the ground, and took out two bottles, two glasses, two plates and two forks. I produced nothing but a chisel. I broke the oysters off, one by one, chosing the big ones of tidy shape. The outsides of their shells were still wet from the sea. We prised them open, carefully, to save the liquor from spilling. Then we place them, eighteen upon each plate. My friend produced lemon and red pepper and I begun to eat.

‘Wait,” he said. He opened the bottles, one of champagne and one of stout, and filled the glasses. Thus I came to the pleasure of eating oysters with black velvet, sitting on a beach, with the blue ocean stretched before me.

It is easy to imagine all kinds of delight into a past experience, but I believe that my love of good food was awakened on that summer day: the love of good food, laced with good conversation.

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Two thoughts on that.

I last ate oysters and stout over a long lunch in Davy Byrnes pub whilst in Dublin for an equally long weekend. The next day, a Monday, we went to a better pub, if not one of the best I have been to. There were the two of us and we had the place  to ourselves. There were two old men behind the bar and it took them both to pour my pint and get it right. There were leather seats in a great room and walls covered in faded mirrors. Although it was quiet the place was tight with the sound of a Saturday night and the noise and the drinking that went on in its four walls.

My love of good food could have started over a lunch whilst on a camping holiday in France. The other kids had burgers or chicken and chips but I wanted a plate of clams. They came in a special plate that had a series of hollows to hold each opened shell and they were slathered in butter and garlic. There were no chips but there was bread to mop up the juices.

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