This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
A mistrust of Oysters, as so frequently and undeniably conveying typhoid fever during the last few years, because of crude sewage gaming unrestricted access to their beds, has possessed, and still possesses the public mind. It is,' however, reassuring to know that the principal Oyster cultivators, whose trade therein has suffered to a most serious extent, have instituted rigid inspections, and adopted vigorous measures to remedy this grave evil. Any suspected Oysters, before coming to table, should be first put for several days into salted water, and changed several times (without food), so as to scour themselves from possible ptomaines, and then the Oysters may be eaten with impunity. In the epidemic of typhoid fever recently at Winchester (1902) caused by eating contaminated Oysters at the Mayor's Banquet, a local doctor learnt the striking fact that the majority of sufferers who then fell ill were pronounced teetotallers; in which connection it would seem that a moderate use of diluted alcohol is sufficient to practically prevent mischief from typhoid germs.
After a series of exhaustive experiments made lately by the Chicago Board of Health, it has been determined that the typhoid germ literally curls up under the action of fresh lemon-juice; a dose or two of this simple antidote produces much the same effect on the microbes of typhoid, as a spoonful of salt does on a snail, or slug. It is therefore suggested that persons who eat Oysters should unfailingly take fresh lemon-juice with them, instead of vinegar, which is commonly used as an accompaniment, though a considerable number of Oyster-eaters prefer the bivalve plain. "But still later observation has been said to show that lemon-juice does not produce its lethal effect upon typhoid germs until after at least twenty-hours have elapsed; which fact, if it be such, disposes of the idea that a consumer of Oysters safeguards himself against typhoid infection therefrom, even if he eats a whole lemon with each Oyster"; thus reasons The Table, February, 1903. The poet Hood, in his humorous tale of Miss Kilmansegg, and her Golden Leg, sings incidentally thus:-
"What different fates our stars accord! One babe is welcomed, and wooed as a lord,
To its vinegar only, and pepper".
"Scarcely one man in a thousand," says the Rev. J. G. Wood, "knows how to open an Oyster, and still less, how to eat it; the usual method of the Oyster-shops is radically wrong, whereby all the juice is lost, and the Oyster is left to become dry, and insipid on the flat shell; this being slightly convex inside, effectually answers to drain off the liquor, (the same being to the Oyster what milk is to the cocoanut). There is as much difference between an Oyster properly opened, and eaten before its aroma has had time to escape, as between champagne frothy, and leaping out of the silver-necked bottle, and the same wine after it has been allowed to stand six hours with the cork removed." When an Oyster is opened, it is possible on a careful examination to see the heart beating, almost as strongly as it did before the operation was performed. Though the Oyster has neither eyes, nor ears, yet if you let the shadow of your hand fall on his shell when permitted to be open, it will be instantly closed up, such is his sensitiveness.; and his intelligence is of the same order.
He lies on the bulged shell (which is concave within), and it is supposed when he happens to have this shell uppermost he cannot unclose his shell; so in frosty weather (an Oyster hates frost) he manages to keep the flatter side of the shell undermost, and runs no risk of opening, and thus letting the ice-cold water chill his delicate organization; but to turn over again is not an easy matter, and gives Mr. Oyster some little trouble in the way of manoeuvring., "Wery good power o' suction, Sammy, you've got," said Mr. Weller, Senior (in Pickwick), looking into the pot of ale when his firstborn took a long swig, and set it down half-empty. "You'd ha' made an oncommon fine Oyster, Sammy, if you'd been born in that station of life".
For "Oysters roasted in the shell": "Wash the shells very carefully with a brush; then put them (unopened) in a wire broiler, over glowing coals, the round side of each shell down so as to hold the juice; cook them quickly, turning them once, or twice, until the shells open; or, they may be thus cooked in a hot oven. When they are done remove the upper half of each shell, and season quickly with salt, pepper, and a tiny piece of butter (adding lemon-juice if liked); serve the Oysters while they are very hot." The true Oyster flavour is delightfully developed by preparing them in this way. For Oyster pie: "Line a pie-dish with puff paste, and fill it with slices of stale bread; butter the paste that covers the edge of the dish, lay a cover of puff paste over the pie, then press the edges very lightly together, trim them, and bake quickly in a hot oven. Meanwhile drain the liquor from one quart of Oysters, and chop them fine with a sharp, thin-bladed knife; blend a teaspoonful of corn starch in a very little milk; pour over it one half-pint of boiling milk, or cream, and put it over the fire in a saucepan; stir till it thickens, then add one ounce of butter; when the butter has been well mixed in, season the chopped Oysters with salt, and pepper; stir them into the thickened milk, and let it simmer (stirring all the time) for five minutes, and then take it from off the fire.
When the bread-pie is baked remove it from the oven, and while it is still hot carefully take off the upper crust, withdraw the bread, and fill the dish with the thickened cream, or milk, and chopped Oysters; replace the crust; put the pie again in the oven till it is thoroughly hot; and then serve." Dr. Kitchener, in his Cook's Oracle, 1821, has commended "Oysters dried and powdered, this being done by mixing three dozen natives with seven ounces of dried flour, into a paste which is to be dried and powdered to six ounces. This powder, if made with plump juicy natives, will abound with the flavour of the fish; and if closely corked, and kept in a dry place, it will remain good. Sprinkled on bread and butter it makes an excellent sandwich, and is especially worthy the notice of country housekeepers." Oyster-tea is of good service for nausea of stomach (not surfeited with indigestible food), and it will often be retained by a qualmish delicate invalid when almost everything else is rejected. Select eight fresh Oysters, and chop them fine on a chopping board; then turn them into a saucepan with a cup of cold water; set the saucepan on the fire, and let the water come slowly to the boiling point; then simmer for five minutes; strain the liquid into a basin, flavour it with half a saltspoonful of salt, and serve it hot, with, or without a small piece of dry toast, or a rusk.