Shell Game

Today, having returned to Cape Cod from Brooklyn late last evening, I arose early and made my way to Indian Neck Beach, which forms the eastern shore of Wellfleet Bay. My arrival coincided, not accidentally, with the lowest extremity of the tide, and as expected I found the legendary oyster beds fully exposed, beckoning as winsomely as Goya’s Maja.

To collect oysters is a simple business. At minimum one requires only a bucket and a permit ($25 per annum for Wellfleet residents); recommended supplemental gear includes submersible shoes and gloves for protection against the razor-sharp shells. Also, because oysters tend to agglomerate, a screwdriver is useful for prying them apart, as they do not group by size, and we are not supposed to take the little ones.

Although The Eastern Oyster is widely distributed, their flavor varies greatly from place to place, in keeping with the French concept of terroir, and Wellfleet oysters are rightly prized. They are sublime.

We had a particularly rich tide this morning, and the flats were carpeted with such an abundant profusion of these mouth-watering molluscs that I had to pause occasionally to reflect on the possibility that there might indeed be a benevolent God in Heaven. Not for long, though, because I was too busy scooping them up and tossing them in the bucket. Here’s my haul, numbering perhaps ten dozen, the result of a mere twenty minutes or so of splashing about:

click for hi-res version
Crassostrea virginica

Back home in New York, the world may be my oyster, but up here the situation is reversed.

Related content from Sphere


  1. Kevin Kim says

    This post is almost enough to make me like oysters. Alas, I can’t stand them, but I love clams.


    Posted September 2, 2006 at 6:21 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Kevin,

    I like clams too, but oysters are to clams as Bordeaux is to Budweiser.

    Posted September 2, 2006 at 11:27 am | Permalink