Why Do We Refer to Boats as “She,” Anyway?

Sensible answers to the questions of modern manhood.
Aug. 14 2013 2:23 PM

A Gentleman’s Guide to the Shore

Oyster advice! Boating etiquette! Ween!

(Continued from Page 1)

Do you like Ween? It's an important question. 

The Gentleman Scholar was out with his wife the other night when she sought to gauge his feelings about the glorious weirdos who recorded Pure Guava (1992) and Chocolate and Cheese (1994). For the record, the answer was, "Yes, I do like Ween. Thank you for your question"—but her point was to coo about the band's 1997 record, The Mollusk, naturally enough, as she was posing the question over a plate of a dozen oysters.*

The Mollusk borrows its name from the largest and most delicious of the marine phyla. (Cf., the fried clam basket, above.) This is the proper moment to present the briefest of refresher courses in how to devour these invertebrate friends wisely and well. 

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  • The snail is the finest garlic butter delivery device known to man. A snail served in its own shell should be eaten with a fork and tongs. A snail served in somebody else's shell should be ashamed of itself for interloping.
  • The mussel that does not open when steamed with dry vermouth and green herbs for 10 minutes is not a mussel that your digestive system is going to be terribly thrilled about. Do not pry into its affairs.
  • The clam is not the only necessity of the clambake, a meal ranking as "America's premier culinary celebration," according to Joy of CookingThe JoC's recipe is a classic, but it's not quite as well organized as it might be. I here offer an addendum listing the required equipment:

Cheesecloth (for making scrumptious packets of littenecks, cherrystones, mussels, sausages, potatoes, onions, etc.)
Canvas tarp
Children (enough to dig a pit 2 feet deep, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet long)
Driftwood ("enough ... to build a large fire")
Fireplace matches (preferably safety matches in case the children get into them)
Rocks, large ("about fifteen")
Sand (to throw on children who, having gotten clever with the safety matches, are flaming)
Seaweed, preferably rockweed ("several bushels")
Shovels, plastic (at least two per child so that you don't have to waste time having to teach them to share and stuff)

  • The oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life. This is especially true in the case of lush and plump Shigoku oysters, which continue to gain popularity three years after being described as "the hottest bivalves in Seattle." The Shigoku is grown in floating bags, tumbling with the tides and so growing scoop-shaped. The name supposedly derives from the Japanese 究極, meaning ultimate. I recently overheard a Shigoku enthusiast describe the experience of eating one as kind of like performing cunnilingus. "And, by the way,” she added, “I haven't done that in a while. I could totally go for that."

If you're eating raw oysters with a mignonette or a cocktail sauce, then it is most correct to use an oyster fork, but if you're eating them with just a squeeze of lemon or else undressed, it's fine to take the half-shell in hand and slurp the meat right off it, so long as you do so with nonchalant anti-swagger. Use the back of your nonhalf-shell-holding hand to wipe any real or imaginary dribbles of oyster liquor from your stubbly chin.

The second-best tool for oyster shucking is a stubby flathead screwdriver. (Insert the blade at the hinge and angle it down into the cup.) The best tool for oyster shucking is the oyster knife of the lady or gentleman selling them to you. (Offer a small gratuity.) 

  • The squid is a cephalopod of the order Teuthida, and it is never—despite your naive hopes that things will be different this time—a good idea to order fried calamari for delivery or take out. It always ends up soggy and tepid. Sorry.
  • The octopus is so called because it has four pairs of arms. That's octo- as in the Greek κτώ and -pus as in the Greek πους. Latin doesn't really have anything to do with it; just as so many wonderful summer stews come to us straight from Greece, so does this word, transliterated oktopous. This is all by way of announcing the Gentleman Scholar's second law of maritime grammar: The correct plural form of octopus is octopodes. If you don't like that rule, you can step off like you've got eight feet.

Correction, Dec. 26, 2013: This article originally misstated the release date of Ween's album The Mollusk. It was released in 1997, not 2001. (Return.)

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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