11.12.2017 16:48


Oyster Festival in English Seaside Town Whitstable

Autor: Jana Zlámalová | Kurz: English section | Kategorie: Features and other

Eager viewers gather on Long Beach in Whitstable. Drummers start playing samba rhythms. A fishing boat full of oysters comes to the shore.

Two men carry a basket of freshly caught oysters from the boat and place it in front of local dignitaries. . The local vicar blesses the oysters and he thanks God for these gifts.

The biggest English oyster celebration is open. The masquerade procession goes from the beach to the town streets where the dignitaries distribute oysters to restaurants. Some viewers join the procession and others hurry to the harbour. There are  festival stalls selling fresh oysters.

Whitstable is the English town famous for oyster hunting. People have been fishing for oysters here since the Normans ruled England. Every year at the end of July there is a celebration of the delicious sea food.

However, a well-known rule says that oysters are eaten in the months that have the letter R in their name. It means that oysters are regularly eaten from September to April.

The explanation of why the festival in Whitstable violates this rule dates back to thousand years ago. Oysters breed in the summer. At this time oysters aren`t fished for and fishermen are at home. In the history this was the only time when fishermen had a time to celebrate and thank God for the gifts of the sea. This tradition is followed by the Oyster Festival which has been held in Whitstable for thirty years.

Today, no one cares that July doesn`t have a letter R in the name. Visitors of the Oyster Festival look forward to buying oysters at severals stalls. It is possible to buy one piece as well as a dozen or half a dozen of oysters. Six oysters cost 5 GBP. It is a very friendly price.

No wonder that there are long queues at the stalls selling oysters. “I  am waiting here for half an hour. Fortunately, the music which is playing is very good. It isn`t so boring to wait,” Says James who is standing in one of the queues.

The queues are so long because opening oysters is a demanding activity. Oysters are opened just before consumption. Oyster shells are firmly attached together and professional openers must carefully separate both parts of the oyster with a special knife.

This is the only preparation of oysters. Freshly opened oysters are then served with lime juice and finely chopped shallots. However, thick-skinned visitors of the festival can add a few drops of tabasco on their oysters.

“I prefer oy sters without anything. I like the salty taste of oysters. It is like drinking the sea,” says Victoria who is just  buying a plate of six oysters.

However, Whitstable doesn`t smell just like the sea today. The air is full of the smell of sun creams. Today is one of the hottest days of this summer and Whitstable looks like a mediterranean resort. Maybe thanks to its seaside atmosphere, Whitstable is so popular among Londoners. “It is only one hour by train from London to Whitstable. Londoners like Whitstable as a weekend destination for their trips. And because they like our oysters, they spread the news about our delicious oysters across the country,” explains an older local woman Sara.

On the beach, where the festival takes place, one of popular activities among children is to walk on empty oyster shells. They look like big black stones, but actually it is a large field of shells. And it is the sign of how many oysters are eaten in Whitstable.

“I like the atmosphere of Whitstable. When you eat oysters in London, it is very fancy. But here it is a meal like any other. And it is good, I think,” explains Matthew, one of the visitors of the festival why he likes this event.

Klíčová slova: oysters, food festival, Great Britain

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