New Orleans #3: An oyster named desire

Desire On the corner of a block of Bourbon Street devoted to strip clubs, Desire Oyster Bar serves All Nude! Live! Slimy! oysters. If I took a job at any of the strip clubs nearby, at the end of my shift I would retrieve the sweaty fist-fulls from my g-string, teeter totter to Desire Oyster Bar, and spend every last penny. I’d never break the cycle.

You can sit in the restaurant if you want fuss about with etouffe and gumbo, Pierre, but I prefer to get straight to business. I sat at the bar and hollered for a dozen.

Some tough men did the shucking. I got a Bloody Mary, which I had hitherto deemed suitable only on airplanes. But I did the math and deduced that a cocktail made from cocktail sauce would pair well with oysters. 

I’d never seen oysters so plump. Where did these oysters come from? “Bayou St. John,” answered the shucker. The same bayou where Marie Laveau regularly brought her to-do list to the attention of African deities.

The 13th oyster in my order of a dozen dwarfed the previous 12. It shone in the yellow bar light like a fleshy jewel, fattened by the afterglow of voodoo prayers. It bellowed with the salty joie de vivre of the sea, and slithered down my gullet like a demon on a mission.

I had attempted to get oysters earlier in the day, but I had an appointment to meet some ghosts shortly thereafter, so I couldn’t withstand the line. Even in the off-season, tourists swarm for a taste of them bayou bivalves.

2-2013_US_NOLA_014I followed the oysters with delectable daiquiris from the famous Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shoppe. (On the ghost tour, I learned that Pirate Lafitte would stuff people he didn’t like in the central wood-burning stove.) It is the oldest operating bar in the United States. You’d expect the employees to dress up in colonial costumes, tipping their three-cornered hats and “Good morrow!” -ing all the customers.

But Lafitte’s teaches an important lesson: If you want to go far, keep up with the times. So Purple Drank daiquiris from a slushy machine it was. The aphrodisiac properties of the oyster, mixed with the naughtiness of whatever’s in a daiquiri, left me frisky enough to survive the rest of winter. 3-2013_US_NOLA_012

As a sensible, straight-laced college graduate, oysters probably leave you queasy with suspicion. As for the  idea of an aphrodisiac, you’re dubious without a citation in a peer-reviewed journal.  “Food isn’t sexy!” your waspy soul wails. Most of it is trying to KILL YOU, especially in the South. New Orleans hears your concerns, and plans accordingly.

Beer. Cigar. Mufaletta. And, before you go home, plan your funeral.

2013 FrenchQuarter

Photo credit Kissa Meikle

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