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  #1  
Old 07-04-2010, 08:02 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Are oysters alive when you eat them?

We were enjoying some awesome oysters yesterday, and there's something I've always wondered about: Are they oysters still alive when they're on the half-shell? I've never seen them move. You'd think if they were still alive they'd react when you squeeze the lemon on them or apply the horseradish and cocktail sauce.

Obviously they don't survive my molars.
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  #2  
Old 07-04-2010, 08:08 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Just a thought, but since oysters are cold-blooded and kept chilled until they're actually brought to the table couldn't they be "stunned"?
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  #3  
Old 07-04-2010, 08:09 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Could be. The shells are sitting in a bed of ice.
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:24 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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Unless you see they are cooked, yes the oysters are alive when you eat them.

If you eat raw oysters, you will see an open shell. If you tap on it, the oyster will close the shell. Then it is safe to eat the oyster. If you tap on an open shell and it doesn't close the oyster is dead and it is not safe to eat.
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:28 PM
Race Harley Race Harley is offline
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Yummy!
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Old 07-04-2010, 08:37 PM
running coach running coach is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
Just a thought, but since oysters are cold-blooded and kept chilled until they're actually brought to the table couldn't they be "stunned"?
They're not stunned, they're pinin'.
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Old 07-05-2010, 05:11 AM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
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I thought you just slid and swallowed without chewing. If so, what's the exact point? How much can you taste?
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Old 07-05-2010, 06:23 AM
SevenOfTeemingMillions SevenOfTeemingMillions is offline
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Originally Posted by Markxxx View Post
If you eat raw oysters, you will see an open shell. If you tap on it, the oyster will close the shell. Then it is safe to eat the oyster. If you tap on an open shell and it doesn't close the oyster is dead and it is not safe to eat.
Interesting. I didn't know that. If you plan to cook the oystersf instead of eating them raw, is it still not safe to buy dead oysters?
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Old 07-05-2010, 06:30 AM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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The whole point of the lemon slice is not to flavour the oyster but that you touch the slice to the oyster and the oyster should move, demonstrating that it is alive and safe to eat.
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Old 07-05-2010, 07:32 AM
Turek Turek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
They're not stunned, they're pinin'.
Not the Norwegian Blues. They prefer kippin' on their backs.
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  #11  
Old 07-05-2010, 12:45 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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All of the oysters (in shells) I see at the store have their shells closed.

I like the lemon for extra flavour. The oysters themselves were very tasty though. I asked where they came from, but I don't remember the name. Someplace on Puget Sound, anyway. I really should get a shellfish license. There are oysters at Birch May State Park, and I'm told they're especially easy to gather after a storm.
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Old 07-05-2010, 01:19 PM
TWDuke TWDuke is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardinal View Post
I thought you just slid and swallowed without chewing. If so, what's the exact point? How much can you taste?
More than enough, in my opinion. Even if you could swallow the horrid little phlegm ball without it touching your tongue, there's still the vile juice to contend with.
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  #13  
Old 07-05-2010, 01:26 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardinal View Post
I thought you just slid and swallowed without chewing. If so, what's the exact point? How much can you taste?
I missed this one. I must disagree with our esteemed Messr. TWDuke. There's no point swallowing oysters whole. You have to chew the meat, which isn't at all like phlegm.
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  #14  
Old 07-05-2010, 02:03 PM
Barking Dog Barking Dog is offline
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Originally Posted by Markxxx View Post
Unless you see they are cooked, yes the oysters are alive when you eat them.

If you eat raw oysters, you will see an open shell. If you tap on it, the oyster will close the shell. Then it is safe to eat the oyster. If you tap on an open shell and it doesn't close the oyster is dead and it is not safe to eat.


Every oyster I've seen always has it shell closed regardless. Actually as I come to think of it, if the shell is closed it's alive and fresh, if it's open its dead and ought to be tossed. I think. I admit I'm not positive. I'm sure it's true of mussels at least.
Also, and I could be wrong again (probably am), but I think that the trauma of shucking an oyster actually kills the little buggers.
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  #15  
Old 07-05-2010, 03:24 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by Barking Dog View Post
Also, and I could be wrong again (probably am), but I think that the trauma of shucking an oyster actually kills the little buggers.
Given that a chicken, which has a brain of sorts, can survive the trauma of having its head cut off, I don't think the damage due to being shucked is enough to kill an oyster outright.

I've had oysters squirm a bit while being eaten, so yes, they're alive.
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  #16  
Old 07-05-2010, 03:34 PM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is online now
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Yes, unless cooked the oysters are alive. But they have no brain and only a rudimentary nervous system and aren't likely to 'feel' much pain. Unlike Colibri I've squirted lemon juice on many an oyster and applied horseraddish and cocktail sauce to many others, and I've stabbed most of them with those little oyster forks like you do if you don't slide them out of the shell into your mouth, and I've yet to see any reaction at all.
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  #17  
Old 07-05-2010, 03:55 PM
Caprese Caprese is offline
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The shells are always closed.
Some of the tastiest oysters (IMHO) are from Apalachicola. (And I hope, given the situation, they have the chance to stay that way.)
If we are not going to eat them right away, we store them in the 'fridge with the bag open wide because they are indeed still alive and need to breathe.
If we eat them raw we might have a tiny bit of hot sauce and/or cocktail sauce with horseradish, but not too much. I love them roasted, though.
And yes, we do chew--they are to be savored.
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  #18  
Old 07-05-2010, 04:01 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starving Artist View Post
Unlike Colibri I've squirted lemon juice on many an oyster and applied horseraddish and cocktail sauce to many others, and I've stabbed most of them with those little oyster forks like you do if you don't slide them out of the shell into your mouth, and I've yet to see any reaction at all.
I've had them pried directly off mangrove roots, so they were a good bit fresher (and hence perhaps more lively) than any oyster served in a restaurant.
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  #19  
Old 07-05-2010, 04:20 PM
Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is online now
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Color me shocked to know that oysters are still alive when served. I've never had oysters, and am not a shellfish eater in any case, but are other shellfish still alive when served to US consumers?

When I was in Japan, I went to a couple of restaurants that served living sea life, see here, and here, but I was almost certain Americans, in general, would be squicked by eating anything living.
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  #20  
Old 07-05-2010, 04:47 PM
torie torie is offline
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OH OH! It never occurred to me that they may be alive!! That is absolutely disgusting. I hated oysters before. I super-ultra-mecha-Godzilla hate them now.
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  #21  
Old 07-05-2010, 04:53 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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Wait, eating them kinda sorta takes away their ability to make a pearl for to hang on my sweetie's pretty neck, doesn't it?

Waste of a good pearl factory, if you ask me.
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  #22  
Old 07-05-2010, 05:24 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Originally Posted by Onomatopoeia View Post
...but I was almost certain Americans, in general, would be squicked by eating anything living.
Only if it's noticably moving and has something resembling a face.
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  #23  
Old 07-05-2010, 09:25 PM
TreacherousCretin TreacherousCretin is offline
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Originally Posted by Turek View Post
Not the Norwegian Blues. They prefer kippin' on their backs.
Look, You, this is no laughing matter.
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  #24  
Old 07-05-2010, 09:40 PM
Swords to Plowshares Swords to Plowshares is offline
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The shells should always be closed when you buy them. That's why they have to be shucked - although I'm surprised they survive the shucking (if that is indeed true).
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  #25  
Old 07-05-2010, 10:41 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swords to Plowshares View Post
The shells should always be closed when you buy them. That's why they have to be shucked - although I'm surprised they survive the shucking (if that is indeed true).
Shucking should not be fatal, as it only severs the adductor muscle from the shell.
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  #26  
Old 07-06-2010, 12:07 AM
Tangent Tangent is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Given that a chicken, which has a brain of sorts, can survive the trauma of having its head cut off,
Survive?
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  #27  
Old 07-06-2010, 12:10 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Survive?
Mike the Headless Chicken
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  #28  
Old 07-06-2010, 12:14 AM
not_alice not_alice is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
Only if it's noticably moving and has something resembling a face.
I have had kawakani a couple of times, which are most certainly alive, crawling river crabs. You eat them by popping them in your mouth and biting them before they bite you.

They are said to be an aphrodisiac. In my experience, that is true - they work on the date who is mighty mighty impressed by the eating task, and having been told by the waitress that the crabs are in fact an aphrodisiac, gets the hint.

Last edited by not_alice; 07-06-2010 at 12:14 AM..
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  #29  
Old 07-06-2010, 01:15 AM
Small Hen Small Hen is offline
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If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have tried an oyster on the half shell. Now, no way in hell. If there is any chance that my food might have even a vague awareness of, "fuck! I failed!", then it's not a tasty good time. I have enough of a complex without wondering if my food is thinking negative thoughts while I eat it.
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  #30  
Old 07-06-2010, 01:21 AM
not_alice not_alice is offline
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Originally Posted by Small Hen View Post
If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have tried an oyster on the half shell. Now, no way in hell. If there is any chance that my food might have even a vague awareness of, "fuck! I failed!", then it's not a tasty good time. I have enough of a complex without wondering if my food is thinking negative thoughts while I eat it.
Cool! More for the rest of us!
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  #31  
Old 07-06-2010, 01:42 AM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Small Hen
If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have tried an oyster on the half shell. Now, no way in hell. If there is any chance that my food might have even a vague awareness of, "fuck! I failed!", then it's not a tasty good time. I have enough of a complex without wondering if my food is thinking negative thoughts while I eat it.
They can't think; they don't have brains.

They are alive, but pretty much in the same sense that plants are alive. This opinion is backed up by the Wiki article on oysters. To wit:

Quote:
While technically an animal, the oyster is considered by some ethicists to be an appropriate food choice for vegans and vegetarians, arguing it is acceptable to eat oysters, because in the relevant ethical terms they are rather closer to plants than animals.[22] Two common ethical objections to the consumption of animals is that they feel pain (and that causing pain is wrong), and that their cultivation is environmentally harmful. On both of these, oysters are significantly closer to plants than animals.[citation needed] Regarding pain, oysters lack a central nervous system, and are not believed to experience pain in the same way as humans do, with them and other bivalves being closer to mobile plants than to plant perception. ("plant perception" = the mechanisms by which plants recognize changes in the environment.)
[bolding and parenthetical comments mine]

Link to Wikipedia article on oysters.
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  #32  
Old 07-06-2010, 01:50 AM
Alan Smithee Alan Smithee is offline
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Wow, I had no idea oysters were alive when I ate them. Well, actually, I suspect this may be one of those things I knew at one time and then managed successfully to forget.

Years ago when I was still nominally vegetarian, I used to justify eating sushi with the utilitarian argument that I LOVE eating sushi and how much fun could a fish possibly have? I don't suppose a bivalve can have much utility in its life at all (and no less an authority than Peter Singer agrees with me!) but to eat them alive . . . !

Luckily for me (or my conscience, at least) I live pretty far inland. We have "oysters" on the menu here in the Rocky Mountains, but they ain't seafood! (And the one time in my life I was drunk enough to want to try them, the restaurant was all out.) Next time I get a chance to eat a real oyster I'll hopefully have managed to forget this fact again.
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  #33  
Old 07-06-2010, 03:21 AM
TWDuke TWDuke is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
At the height of his popularity, the chicken earned $4,500 USD per month ($50,000 in 2005 dollars) and was valued at $10,000.
This is not helping my self-esteem.
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  #34  
Old 07-06-2010, 07:32 AM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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I find it adds to my oyster dining experience if I imagine a tiny Wilhelm scream.
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  #35  
Old 07-06-2010, 10:16 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Originally Posted by Spoke View Post
I find it adds to my oyster dining experience if I imagine a tiny Wilhelm scream.
Suburban Princess: Ooh! This one's still wiggling!
Oyster: [Wilhelm Scream as Suburban Princess eats it]
Suburban Princess: Tee hee hee!
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  #36  
Old 07-07-2010, 02:41 PM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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Originally Posted by Markxxx View Post
Unless you see they are cooked, yes the oysters are alive when you eat them.

If you eat raw oysters, you will see an open shell. If you tap on it, the oyster will close the shell. Then it is safe to eat the oyster. If you tap on an open shell and it doesn't close the oyster is dead and it is not safe to eat.
Cool - self-vetting foodstuff! Good oyster!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quartz View Post
The whole point of the lemon slice is not to flavour the oyster but that you touch the slice to the oyster and the oyster should move, demonstrating that it is alive and safe to eat.
One can also apply a soaked napkin to the oyster, at which point it should name the leader of your local Al Quada cell. This establishes, not only that the oyster is alive and safe to eat, but that you have exhausted its stock of useful information before consuming it.
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  #37  
Old 07-07-2010, 03:05 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Originally Posted by Starving Artist View Post
... I've squirted lemon juice on many an oyster and applied horseraddish and cocktail sauce to many others, and I've stabbed most of them with those little oyster forks like you do if you don't slide them out of the shell into your mouth, and I've yet to see any reaction at all.
Then off to the mastication and the acid bath!
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