If there’s one thing Rowan Jacobsen knows a lot about, it’s oysters. (OK, he knows a lot about apples, too.) His writing has appeared in Mother Jones, VICE, Harper’s, and Lucky Peach, and has garnered him a couple of James Beard Awards and a place in the Best Food Writing 2016. His most recent book, The Essential Oyster, is a love letter to oysters—and oyster lovers—everywhere.
Jacobsen stopped by the test kitchen recently (with about 100 oysters in tow—thanks, Rowan!), and I got to talk with him about his oyster obsession. That conversation (lightly edited) is below.
Are there any public misconceptions about oysters you’d like to dispel?
Yeah, we should talk about the “R Rule.” That’s a famous old rule that says you should only eat oysters in months that have an “R” in them. Which means, basically, September through April. In other words: lay off in the summer. It goes back hundreds of years, but that had to do with when it was all a wild harvest. Oysters reproduce in the summers when the water temperature is at its peak, and they don’t taste very good when they’re reproducing. So the idea was, “Let them do their thing, and get back to them in the fall.” And also, as the water temperature gets a little colder, they get a little tastier. Now that it’s all farmed oysters and they’re all coming out of hatcheries, you don’t really need to pay attention to that rule.