Great food is always a real bonus when staying anywhere and visitors to Lot et Garonne can enjoy locally grown vegetables and fruit – including apples, kiwi, strawberries and of course, the famous Agen plums. Les Séchoirs is conveniently situated just a few hundred metres from the really good mini Carrefour supermarket in Clairac and every second Sunday morning, a bright yellow canopy in the front car park announces that the ‘Oyster Man’ is there – and business for him is always brisk!
France is the No 1 country for oysters in Europe and Paris THE place to eat oysters, but the second best place must be in Clairac overlooking the River Lot….
It was business as usual for the Oyster Man in Clairac this morning, which seemed a little surprising as I had read only a few days ago that France produces a staggering 142,000 metric tonnes of oysters (a business worth €520 million) and 90% of these oysters are consumed in France with 50% of this amount enjoyed over Christmas and New Year! I fully expected there to be a January shortage! If there is an ‘R’ in the month, it means oysters are in season so we can enjoy them right the way through till the end of April.
Oysters have been enjoyed in France as a luxury food since Roman times and the French were the first to start cultivating oysters commercially. France has more than 2,000 miles of coastline and some of the world’s best oyster beds in Concale, Marennes-Oléron and Arachon and it is in beds in Arachon that the oysters sold in Clairac are harvested.
There are two different species available – the Pacific Oyster (Huitre Creuse) which was brought from Japan in the 1970s when the French stocks were badly depleted by disease and the European Oyster (Huitre Plate or Gravette) which is the classic native oyster of France.
Oysters have rough grey hinged shells and the oyster inside is delicately flavoured and surrounded by clear juice. The oysters are graded with the most expensive being the sweetest and the most expensive from the ‘Oyster Man’ are definitely excellent! The challenge is opening or ‘shucking’ the oyster which is best done with a special short bladed knife (yes, both our gites at Les Séchoirs have one!!) which is inserted into the hinged end of the shell (with the flat side of the shell down) and the knife or ‘shucker’ is then twisted to open the shell…..
Oysters are best served chilled with Champagne or a dry white wine and enjoyed at a leisurely pace….