The Bad Oyster

Polly Becker Illustration,

Went to the Doc this week for my annual check up. I’m a freak about prevention. Doc annually, lady parts annually, dentist three to four cleanings a year, eye doc yearly, stocked supply of Emergen-C.

Went through the usual rigmarole for a doc’s visit. I’m going to be thirty-five in two weeks, but have felt perpetually thirty since I was eight years old (mentally). Physically, I feel fine. Great, even.

The office called today with my results. “Everything good- blood pressure, kidneys, blah blah, just watch your diet, your cholesterol’s getting a little high.”

Say what? I’m a size two, people. A size two. I work out four days a week. Hmm. “Do you have the number?” I asked.


I’m all for the 213. Great area code in L.A. Not so great on the cholesterol. Wtf? You can be slim and be all sorts of clogged on the inside, apparently. Or, could be genetic. But the doc said to ‘just watch my diet.’ I started thinking what cholesterol-pumping foods I consumed in the last few months… Meat and cheese plates. Prosciutto sandos. Eggs and eggs and eggs (brunches!!!). Crab rolls. Prawns. Crackers. I blogged about Rhubarb crunch (2 sticks of butter) and Pasta (doh!). Butter on rolls. Oysters.


Ok, so I need to change my diet. Who are the biggest cholesterol culprits? Shellfish. Shrimp. Crab. Lobster. Oysters. What? Oysters? Oysters!!!?? Noooooooooooooooooooooo!

I should’ve known that nature’s gift of deliciousness would be my kryptonite.

A couple of months ago, I went to lunch with a co-worker at Gulfstream in Century City. It’s a nice joint- the perfect Corporate-American lunch. As we have now established, I am an oyster fan. A BIG Oyster fan. I love oysters from the PNW- Washington, Oregon, BC. When the server “recommended” the oysters on the half shell to start, my co-worker went for it. I normally like an oyster with an adult beverage, but that’s cool, I’ll have a Fanny Bay at a work lunch. Or I’ll have two Fanny Bays. I should have stopped there. Instead I ate the small third oyster in the ice bed.

Pacific NW Waters, San Juan Islands, 2005

On our way out, I noticed the oysters and the certificate indicating the date they were pulled from the ocean (March 16), packed (March 17), shipped (March 17). So far so good. Except that it was March 29. Some thrirteen days after they were plucked from their salty British Columbian waters.  I understand that they were frozen, but still, if I eat an oyster, it better be like 2 days old. This was not the case.

We went to an appointment with a client and partway through- the rumbling began. It started off small. We wrapped up the meeting in North Hills, and I was due at another meeting at the LAX Marriott- some twenty-five miles away. Now, twenty-five miles may not seem that bad on a moving freeway- but this was 3pm on a Thursday. Yeah.

Ride from Hell

The rumbling really started up just as I hit the ten freeway. Charlotte in Sex and the City the Movie meets Harry in Dumb and Dumber. Almost. Except in my car. And in a suit. Where I am about to go meet with my boss.

Cue full blast air con, music, and pleas to the heavens that I can make it to a nice, quiet, LAX Marriott stall in one piece. I looked around my immaculate Prius interior, thinking, I could wipe it down if I needed to. Couldn’t it air out after a few days?

No. Plan B. Pull off the freeway. Use a gas station- no, it will make the gross grosser.  Or a Starbucks- I will f up about 10 people’s afternoons.  Or a library- too quiet (and where was one?). No, I had to wait. So there I went, in an hour of traffic, screaming, laugh-crying, panicking.

When I arrived to the hotel, I calmly found the ladies room. And exploded.


Friends, I share this not to gross you out, but to let you know (thanks, how to spot a bad oyster:

1. Select oysters that are no more than four days old. Ask the staff at your local fish market when the oysters were harvested to ensure freshness.

2. Check to make sure that oysters have been stored on ice at the fish market. This preserves their freshness

3. Examine each oyster’s shell to ensure it is sealed tightly. Oysters will open up as they die so confirm that all of the oysters are closed and alive. Discard any open oysters.

4. Discard any oysters that have broken shells as this exposure can cause the meat to spoil.

5. Sniff the oyster shell to check for an offensive odor. If you smell rot, the oyster is bad and should be discarded.

6. Open the oyster and examine the fluid and meat. The oyster should be moist and juicy. If the oyster has gone bad, the interior will be dry and wrinkled.

My episode should have scared me out of eating oysters, but it didn’t. So I guess the universe had to step in with high cholesterol. Ugh, now I want an oyster, of course.


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