When I lived in Paris in 1997-98, my friends and I would often drive out to the Northern French coast and look at the ocean, walking on the beach gazing at the dark water and the powdery grey skies. If you picked the right time of year and the right moment of the day, you could meet the oyster fishers as they were unloading their boats. Watching the great meshes full of oysters pour onto the rough wooden plank boxes filled with blue-white crushed ice was exhilarating. The oyster shells brought with them the scent of the sea, salty and briny. If you asked, the fishers would toss you an oyster or two and split the rough brown shell expertly with a knife, separating the fleshy oyster from the luminous pearly white interior of the shell. Then with a twist of lemon and spray of salt you poured the oyster into your mouth and, for a moment, you tasted the wild flavour of the sea. The stoic fishers would then ask if you liked it gruffly and say something about the difficulties they encountered on the waves that day. I still love oysters on the half-shell, even if I can only have them in restaurants. They take me back to those special moments on blustery days by the rugged French coast.