Oyster farming offers many lessons in humility. Part of the job, for everyone at Hama Hama, is to discover ways to change (and hopefully improve) how we operate, whether it's to refine shell shape, adjust to changing weather or climate, or reduce our environmental impacts.
Another (huge) part of the job of farming oysters is to acknowledge that in the quest for perfection, the true measure of success is to become nearly invisible: To farm in such a way that the person eating the oyster has a direct connection with something wild.
A perfect oyster confronts you with all that you don't know about the world, the oceans, the moon, and your own taste buds. It slips a little bit of magic into your life, changing your mood and maybe the trajectory of your day. It energizes. Even for oyster farmers, it's a wondrous thing, not to be taken lightly.
Like any memorable food, the perfect oyster is situational. You're as likely to find one at a family bbq as at a Michelin-starred restaurant. But if you're in a rush, or if you've just obliterated your palate with a swig of early morning coffee (common occurrence around these parts), it might slide by unnoticed.
It's also subjective: some people prefer briny oysters, others creamy plump ones. We've shucked at enough raw bars to have heard every possible opinion about shell size, salinity, and texture .
What we're left with is this: any oyster (plump, skinny, salty or sweet) can find perfection in the clarity of its message. The greater the sense of place, the more perfect the oyster. Seen from this angle, it matters less what the oyster tastes like than that it tastes authentic to its place and time . The role of an eater, then, is to better understand merroir, and why oyster flavor varies with season and location, in order to better understand the world around us.
If it's been rainy, the freshwater flowing into the seawater can reduce salinity and increase available nutrients, leading to less salty, fatter oysters. If it's been a cool spring, the algae might be a bit late in blooming, so the oysters will stay skinny later into the season. At the height of the growing season, the oysters have so much to eat they nearly burst from their shells. They're sweet, and not as salty as they are when skinny or off-peak.
If you're on the hunt for the perfect oyster, here's our best advice: never compromise on freshness and slurp with purpose, an open mind, and good friends.