Oysters: the raw and the cooked

We’ll be highlighting a range of dishes over the next few months as we prepare to celebrate Canada’s 150th year. Set sail with us as we plumb the depths of what is Canadian in Canadian Literary Fare.


Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “Sea Things” from, The Armies of the Moon (1972) lends itself well to the theme of fish and seafood we’ve been exploring.

She’s interested in “shellfish and sponges and those/ half-plant half-animal things that go/ flump flump on the sea floor”.


She worries about the oysters, “about how they’re finding their food / or making love, or for that matter / if they have anything to make love with.”

I am less worried about their alimentary and sexual habits. I leave them to figure it out for themselves, self-sufficient creatures that they are.

These days I am more preoccupied with how to choose them, how to open them, how best to prepare and eat them.

“Raw with lemon juice” you will exclaim.


Some of you are of the mignonette persuasion: a little shallot, a little red wine vinegar perhaps?


And some of you cook them, or deep fry them.

In the spirit of diplomacy, I shall not take sides. Out of curiosity, however, I wondered what it would be like to cover them with breadcrumbs (with garlic and parsley, a little Parmesan, and a hint of sriracha) and broil them.

to be broiled

I am happy to report that the oysters cooperated beautifully with nary a word of complaint. All of the more squeamish members of my household were duly satisfied.


Here is an approximate recipe:

For 6 oysters on the half shell

  • 4 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh parmesan
  • ¼ teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients. Spoon over oysters and broil for 5 to 6 minutes.


MacEwen, Gwendolyn. The Armies of the Moon. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1972.

Photos and Text by Alexia Moyer

Cod Liver Oil: for breakfast

And we’re back with a guest post by Licia Canton on – of all fishy dishes – cod liver oil. Stay tuned for next week’s foray into oyster cookery.


By the age of six I had been in Canada for two years. I was obliged to drink a little homemade wine at dinner because it was good for me. It would make me stronger, my Venetian parents said. The same with garlic.

I didn’t like garlic and I wasn’t crazy about wine as a child, either. But I disliked cod liver oil the most.

Every morning my mother put a spoonful of the slimy liquid into my mouth, followed by a teaspoon of sugar. That horrible taste of fish lasted all morning. It didn’t matter how much more sugar I sneaked before going up the hill on Bruxelles Street to St. Alice School, I was still burping fish at recess time.

I was a good, obedient daughter and therefore could not refuse the cod liver oil. My mother was the one who administered the medicinal fluid right after breakfast, and she was the gentlest person I had ever known. I was convinced that it wasn’t her idea. My father was the one who went on and on about how good cod liver oil was for kids.

Did he take it every morning before going to work? I didn’t know. I never asked. He was already at work by the time we had breakfast.

He didn’t go to church every Sunday morning either. But his kids wouldn’t get any Sunday lunch if he came home from work (Yes, he worked Sunday mornings, too.) and we couldn’t say yes to his “Did you go to church?” The times he did come to church (Christmas, Easter or a communion) he stood at the back. He never sat with us. I asked once why he did not sit with us. It would have been good for the regular churchgoers to know that I had a father. Standing was his way of doing penance, he said, for all the masses he had missed.

Eventually, I stopped taking cod liver oil, just as I stopped wearing the canottiera (the sleeveless undershirt I was forced to wear even after I began wearing a bra). My sister and I had to wear the canottiera (supplies of which we bought in Italy in the summer) all year round, even on the hottest summer days, because it was good for us!

I’d totally forgotten about cod liver oil by the time I had ditched the undershirt, but it came up again decades later, after I became a mother.

“Are you giving the children cod liver oil?” My father had pointed out that my kids looked a little pale. “You should give it to them every morning before they go to school. That’s what made you strong, remember?”

I didn’t like the thought of that at all. I remembered the fish taste in my mouth.

I was in the pharmacy one winter and stumbled upon the shelf with cod liver oil capsules. Either out of curiosity or sheer desire to stop my father’s “Are you giving them cod liver oil?”, I bought the capsules and took them home. By then I had read that cod liver oil enhances immunity. It also contains high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids and is a good source of Vitamin A and D.

I gave the capsules to the kids on a Saturday morning, not a school morning. Of course not.

Surprise! They didn’t like cod liver oil, either. I tasted a capsule to see if it was better than what I used to get… Yuck. It was the same oil even in capsules.

The next time my father asked if I had given my children cod liver oil, I quickly said yes.