Many of us enjoy eating oysters when we go to our favorite restaurants. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or grabbing your go-to when out for drinks with friends, oysters have a loyal fan base. They are a popular appetizer choice with a longer past than many might realize. Like any beloved dish, oysters had to get their start somewhere, and while we think of them as a delicacy to be enjoyed on a night out, it hasn’t always been that way.
So, how did the appetizer that’s often seen as a luxurious food gain its popularity?
Oysters in the Greek and Roman Empires
While oysters have a prehistoric past, they became extremely popular during the Greek and Roman empires. They became an important part of both cultures and were eaten frequently across both empires. During this time, the Greeks and Romans also devised ways to cultivate oysters. However, high consumption rates made it harder to source oysters, and they were difficult to transport from different areas due to how perishable they are.
18th and 19th Centuries
Although oysters were still consumed during the rise and fall of Greek and Roman empires, they gained notable popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries in many other countries, especially America’s East Coast and England. However, people had a different view of oysters during this time.
Oysters today are often associated with classy restaurants and fine dining, but it was almost the exact opposite during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time, a huge amount of oysters were harvested, making them affordable and a common staple for working-class citizens. Prior to this, oysters were often only for the wealthy, similar to today.
Oysters became a cheaper alternative to other meats during this time. As new methods of food preservation and storage were created in the 1700s and 1800s, it was also possible to transport oysters further away from where they were harvested, making them more accessible. You could find oysters anywhere, such as bars and street vendors, and these could be eaten for every meal of the day. Many recipes from this era contain oysters as a key ingredient, such as oyster pie and oyster stew.
However, oysters’ popularity also helped lead to their decline. Eventually, overharvesting made oysters harder to come by, and polluted water only exacerbated this. Polluted city waters made the oysters that grew there dangerous to eat, which led to them falling out of fashion. As oysters became less readily available, costs rose, making them only attainable to those who could afford the high costs during the early 1900s.
Start Your Meal with Delicious Oysters
Of course, oysters are farmed in clean water and sanitary conditions today, and while many look forward to having them, they aren’t nearly as common as they once were. Even for the biggest oyster fans, it’s unlikely that they enjoy them as frequently as someone during the 17th and 18th centuries would have. While you might not be able to stop by street vendors to pick up some oysters, you can always stop by Grico’s South to enjoy expertly-prepared, high-quality oysters.
Make your reservations at Grico’s South, located in Nanticoke, PA, to try our amazing seafood, pasta, and steaks.