People, when they first come to America, whether as travelers or settlers, become aware of a new and agreeable feeling: that the whole country is their oyster – Alistair Cooke

at Haymarket, Boston.

The oyster, to me, is something to eat- it is most likely out of my price range but I have to have my fix, in those rare moments. After being abroad for a year and having this short visit to Boston and DC, one of the things I wanted to eat were raw oysters, slipping them into my mouth from their griny shells with a splash of lemon, tomatoe dressing, and a drop of tabasco sauce. It has the most fishy taste and the most slimy texture that easily slips through you so that you are only really enjoying it for a second. A short lived high.

I had this high first in Boston where me and my friend were going through the historic Haymarket and as we passed the aisles of raw vegitables, we stumbled on a 4 for $5 deal, on a stand, with buckets of oysters anf mussles sold by two very Italian residents from the North End.

While commonly consumed as a high-end product, found in the nicer bars and restaurants, oysters are perhaps known better as a figure of speech, folktale, and proverbs. The most common of which is the saying that the world is your oyster- whatever that means.  Perhaps it has something to do with how the oyster’s essential price is not associated with its exclusivity in the menu, but its purpose of making the pearl after a long period of growth and waiting (though it must be noted that the kind of oysters consumed are not the same as those that make pearls).

Oysters have the tendency of being health-hazard-seeker’s target. Hepatitis A infection was first traced to the consumption of oysters in 1961, drawn from a series of cases in Alabama and Mississippi. Seventeen years later in 1978, a sudden outbreak of gastroneteritis in Australia was linked to oyster consumtion from the area. A decade afterwards, the hepititas A link with oysters were revisited from an outbreak in Florida. While oysters have been presented as a delicacy, served on a bed of ice and specialized thin forks on the side and rumored to be an aphrodisiac (for its large quantitiy of zinc), they have also been a subject of the popular investigations to link shellfish to, if we wantd to be direct, death.

My love for oysters this year stems from being far from it in the first place. They remind me of the summers and the sea salt scrub that I am inevitably gifted every Christmas except that last one. The inaccessability of it in South Asia led me to happily order a dozen at a bar near U street in D.C. at 11:30 pm last week, when the $1 oyster happy hour began. Me and my friend Bev came early and sat, looking at out cell phones every few minutes, wondering how strict the men behind the dark lit bar were about ordering.  We sat in the tall oak booth with out large metal platter of two dozen oysters, consumed by both of us in ten minutes, garnished nicely with chopped horseradish.

I could use many words to describe this again, but no one really does it better than Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast where he wrote:

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
$1 oyster happy hour in D.C.

back in america.

Currently sittin at the airport in Baltimore, waiting for two of my best friends from college to pick me up. It has been over a year since I saw them, a year in which I spent in the urban cities of South Asia. I have been in the U.S. for over a week now, first in Boston and then last night in Providence. People keep asking me if I am culture shocked. I am not sure that I am- sometimes I am taken aback that I am back to the place that I have missed, every now and then. Most times, I feel as though I had never left in the first place. It may be because after leaving Bangladesh on September 17th, I spent a week in Jubail, Saudi Arabia and then a few days in the cold London, U.K. before landing in the States, giving me ample time to slowly experience the West. I had my first Starbucks in London (soy milk latte, I have missed you) and my immigration was completed in Dublin, Ireland where the American officer wished me a safe journey home.

On the red line, a random train stop in Boston.

The steamed broccolli in my pasta on Sunday morning at Mike’s  Davis Square did me in. It was Octoberfest in Cambridge and while I ate with my cousin, people were drinking beer and cider in the daytime streets, and bad music played on. Halloween decorations were slowly coming to the storefront, and sweet potatoe fries were being given in clean white paper cones nearby. Having broccolli, after so long, in an otherwise ordinary Italian cafe brought me to the realization that I am indeed back. They were fresh, cut perfectly, and not overcooked, and tasted like something just good.

Movement, from being able to walk in walkable side roads of Cambridge and taking the subway on my own accord led me to use the subway abundently and sometimes, unneccessarily this week.

And then you miss things you never cared about before. Having a thankgsgiving sandwich last night at Providence made me love the taste of turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce, though I never cared for any of it while growing up in Arizona. I was excited by the grass, though I always preferred to sit in benches. Wooden floors, even though we had carpet growing up. Things like that.

Meeting friends. Seeing familiar sights.Wearing the once familiar clothes. Being cold outside. Taking hot showers that for some reason just feels clean here. Visiting Wellesley College as an alumnae and walking across the campus that was my home for four years was uncomfortable, and yet a sense of closoure was there. It sometimes is like I have been here all along.

And here, as I wait for my friends whom I am eagerly waiting to see in D.C. will be the continued icing of this short trip home.

the thanksgiving sandwich with turkey, stuffing, cheese, cranberry sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions with a side of potato salad in Providence, RI