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 witboth 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
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.)
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
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.