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Major Mollusks

'Oyster Culture' captures farming, shucking history

By Leilani Clark

Before I moved to Sonoma County, I'd never eaten an oyster. One fateful day, a foodie friend egged me on to slurp down one of the quivering bivalves at a bistro in Occidental, and it was like consuming a cold dollop of ocean—a surprisingly pleasant sensation.

Gwendolyn Meyer, the photographer behind the gorgeous photographs of Oyster Culture (Cameron & Co.; $19.95), co-written with Doreen Schmid, has a reverence for all the steps, from farming to shucking, that bring the oceanic treats to the table.

"It's hard work to farm oysters, and that intrigued me," says Meyers, "the way the agriculture works and the farming in the water. And visually, it's very beautiful."

The book includes recipes and full-color photos. Meyers was once a chef ("My first big job was at Ventana Inn, and we used to have to open dozens and dozens of oysters"), and she tested all of the recipes in the book, from places like Marshall Store, Osterina Stellina, Nick's Cove and Drake's Bay.

"I love oysters," says Meyer. "They are one food that seems to travel from fine dining to your average barbecue on a Sunday afternoon. It's the same product. Once you open the shell, you're eating this fantastic, delicious, tasty treat."

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