French-born author Mireille Guiliano has loved oysters ever since she first tried them at the age of 11, while visiting her grandmother in Strasbourg over the Christmas vacation.
"She was an oyster lover, and just seeing what it meant for her, on Sunday to have two dozen oysters, was a revelation," Guiliano told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.
"I saw this thing, live, and I was like, 'wow', but if she can eat it, maybe I can eat it. I happened to just adore them from the very first one."
Years later Guiliano, who has written the bestseller French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, was working on a book about aging when she realized she didn't really know that much about oysters — and so began exploring just why the French are so fond of the bivalve.
A slice of life
Her new book Meet Paris Oyster: A Love Affair with the Perfect Food is the result of that research focusing on Huîtrerie Régis, a small oyster bar in Paris and her conversations with its regulars and eccentric owner.
"One of his staff said to me, 'his is the only restaurant I know where he picks his customers'," said Guiliano of the owner, who doesn't take reservations or even have a phone is his oyster bar..
Part of what made the owner so difficult, Guiliano said, is that he is very particular about how people should eat oysters.
"You have to have a glass of wine, you need to sit down for this, you can't just gulp down oysters walking down the street," she said.
"For him … we eat too fast, we eat mindlessly, so he's not open to forgiving you."
Guliano said that while researching she also found out just how nutritious oysters are.
"It's a great antioxidant, it has omega 3, it has all the vitamins, A, B, 1, 2, 12, C, D, it has minerals, it has iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, you name it, zinc everything," she said.
In the book Guliano also shares information on where to find the best oysters around the world, what wines pair best with them, and provides some recipes.
She said that while she still prefers to have them raw and with very little flavouring on them (only a bit of lemon juice with pepper), she does sometimes have them a different way.
"[With] a little bit of ginger for example on it, it's amazing how it changes, so you can play with it," she said.
Guiliano said that for friends who are reluctant to eat the bivalve, she will sometimes cook them into an omelette.
"It's very mean, but I don't tell them, and every time I get the person to say, 'It's really good!'" she said.
"Most of them I've succeeded into turning into oyster lovers. Everyone has their tricks, but that's mine."
To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: French author Mireille Guiliano writes about the Parisian love of oysters in new book