Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm

( 5 )

Overview

Bill Buford’s Heat meets Phoebe Damrosch’s Service Included in this unique blend of personal narrative, food miscellany, and history

In March of 2009, Erin Byers Murray ditched her pampered city girl lifestyle and convinced the rowdy and mostly male crew at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts, to let a completely unprepared, aquaculture-illiterate food and lifestyle writer work for them for 12 months to learn the business of oysters. SHUCKED is part love ...

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Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm

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Overview

Bill Buford’s Heat meets Phoebe Damrosch’s Service Included in this unique blend of personal narrative, food miscellany, and history

In March of 2009, Erin Byers Murray ditched her pampered city girl lifestyle and convinced the rowdy and mostly male crew at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts, to let a completely unprepared, aquaculture-illiterate food and lifestyle writer work for them for 12 months to learn the business of oysters. SHUCKED is part love letter, part memoir and part documentary about the world’s most beloved bivalves. An in-depth look at the work that goes into getting oysters from farm to table, SHUCKED shows Erin’s full-circle journey through the modern day oyster farming process and tells a dynamic story about the people who grow our food, and the cutting-edge community of weathered New England oyster farmers who are defying convention and looking ahead. The narrative also interweaves Erin’s personal story—the tale of how a technology-obsessed workaholic learns to slow life down a little bit and starts to enjoy getting her hands dirty (and cold). This is a book for oyster lovers everywhere, but also a great read for locavores and foodies in general.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Boston-area food blogger Murray writes about a year working on a Cape Cod oyster farm—a demanding work cycle, with backbreaking duties. Often under spirit-crushing conditions, she was rapidly schooled in the tasks and tools of her crew position, quickly adjusting and becoming skilled at the work. Murray’s own love of food and food writing informs the narrative, and she skillfully dramatizes the scenes of summertime sowing and depicts her many colorful co-workers. She eventually moves into the company offices as the farm expands its sustainable, beneficial practices in the restaurant industry and wider global village. She even does a day’s work in the kitchens of Thomas Keller’s Per Se and later reaps the immediate culinary benefits of the very oysters that she and her colleagues had laboriously harvested. Murray eschews poetic waxing on her subject and focuses closely on the action and the hard, hard work of farming, closing each chapter with a broad range of oyster recipes. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“While most books about oysters tell people what they want to hear, Shucked tells it like it is: the frigid winter days on the water with hands like popsicles, the backbreaking work, the anxiety of nurturing thousands of dollars’ worth of oyster seed, the hard-partying nights. Erin Byers Murray captures the seasonal rhythms of the New England coast and the romance of one exceptional company’s efforts to coax great food from the sea. You’ll never take an oyster for granted again.” –Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography of Oysters

“Part adventure, part memoir, part culinary awakening, Erin Byers Murray's rite of passage from novice to connoisseur takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the world of the oyster. On the way, she gives us pearls of wisdom and wit—both served up on the half shell. Cocktail sauce is optional but don't miss this book.”— Christopher White, author of Skipjack: The Story of America's Last Sailing Oystermen

"Part of the book’s charm is following Murray through the process of becoming aware of her surroundings in working directly with an edible product. Readers who enjoy Linda Greenlaw’s writing...will appreciate Murray’s offering of just enough information to allow them to become knowledgeable in all things oyster without overdoing it. ...Murray’s portrayal of her personal response to life’s changes and challenges will hold readers’ interest. An entertaining and informative firsthand experience of the locavore movement." —Library Journal

"Murray’s own love of food and food writing informs the narrative, and she skillfully dramatizes the scenes of summertime sowing and depicts her many colorful co-workers. Murray eschews poetic waxing on her subject and focuses closely on the action and the hard, hard work of farming, closing each chapter with a broad range of oyster recipes." —Publishers Weekly

"...a new understanding of locavorism and an appreciation for tradition." --The Sacramento Bee

 

Library Journal
A journalist by trade, Murray makes the surprising decision to enter the unfamiliar territory of an oyster farm in Duxbury, MA. Island Creek encompasses 50 acres of seawater and "grows" oysters from seeds to maturity. Part of what Murray hopes to discover is a sense of place, or merroir, in oyster parlance. You don't have to like oysters to appreciate her underlying message: slow down and enjoy life. There's much to notice, much to experience. Part of the book's charm is following Murray through the process of becoming aware of her surroundings in working directly with an edible product. Readers who enjoy Linda Greenlaw's writing (e.g., The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island) will appreciate Murray's offering of just enough information to allow them to become knowledgeable in all things oyster without overdoing it. Oyster recipes follow each chapter. VERDICT Though the book contains a lot of detail on the mechanics and process of farming oysters, Murray's portrayal of her personal response to life's changes and challenges will hold readers' interest. An entertaining and informative firsthand experience of the locavore movement.—Elizabeth Rogers, CEF Lib. Syst., Plattsburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews

The toils and pleasures of oystering.

Like many of her predecessors in the food-based memoir genre, Murray begins in formulaic fashion. An avowed food-lover, the author grew dissatisfied with her life as an editor for a popular Boston lifestyle magazine.She felt lost and craved a fuller connection to the things she loves.When she met one of the directors of Island Creek Oysters, she discovered an opportunity to commit to something more substantial and convinced the company to hire her as an oyster farmer for one year.Knowing nothing about oystering, Murray was schooled early and often—and her prose, frequently humorous and nicely descriptive, does a good job of getting at the grueling experience of this particular niche food industry.Unfortunately, as with so many of the authors within this genre, Murray cannot escape the indictment of privileged self-involvement.When her one-year tenure was over, the author returned to her cushy life, wiser for her blue-collar experience but oblivious to the inevitable differences—despite her avowed solidarity—that will always separate her voluntary incursion from the toil of those who must oyster for their livelihood.

An average foodie memoir.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250032003
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/2/2013
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 454,015
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

ERIN BYERS MURRAY is a Boston area journalist, specializing in food and wine writing. Most recently, she was the Boston editor for DailyCandy.com. Her work as been published in the Boston Globe, Food and Wine, Boston Magazine, Bon Appetit, and many more. Visit her at shucked.wordpress.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 11, 2011

    It's a Pearl of a Book!

    This is a fun and informative read, by a writer who spent 18 months working at Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury Bay, MA. Her culinary background, witty and engaging words and her keen observations about those around her, make this a must-read for anyone interested in food, people or a great story. Doesn't that cover just about everybody?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    Great Read!

    Really enjoyed this memoir! Fascinating look into the inner-workings of a oyster farm.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Great book - enjoyed it from cover to cover!

    Great book - enjoyed it from cover to cover!

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  • Posted February 20, 2012

    a great experience to ready about!

    :-)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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