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Eric Shackle Writes: Oysters With Olive - And Others

The inimitable Eric Shackle, Open Writing columnist and the oldest citizen reporter writing for the daily Web newspaper OhmyNews International, sits down with the incredible Olive Riley, who will be 108 next month, to enjoy an oyster feast.

Do, do, do visit Olive's Web site. Follow the links and join in an epic occasion.

My venerable friend Olive Riley, her helper Mike Rubbo and I enjoyed an Oysters and Guinness lunch at the heritage-listed Ye Olde Woy Woy Hotel http://www.comcen.com.au/~starbug/Photos/old%20pub.JPG
the other day in the small town of Woy Woy, 50 miles north of Sydney. Olive, who will be 108 on Oct. 20, is almost certainly the world's oldest blogger (see her 37th post). http://www.allaboutolive.com.au/

The feisty centenarian eagerly devoured 14 Sydney Rock oysters http://www.benjaminchristie.com/article/126/sydney-rock-oysters-pacific-oysters-or-native-- but shuddered when she sipped a schooner (large glass) of Guinness. She said it tasted too bitter, and then enjoyed a middy (smaller glass) of her favorite tipple, a shandy (half beer, half lemonade).

Zillions of folk around the world with Irish blood in their veins stoutly believe (and so do I) that Guinness and oysters, like Sinatra's:
Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can't have one without the other.

In Ireland, Galway, the country's third-largest city after Dublin and Cork, holds an international oyster festival on the last weekend of September each year. Organizers claim it's "one of the biggest events in Ireland's social calendar. A feast of live entertainment, gourmet food, fine wine and of course Oysters and Guinness are enjoyed by some 10,000 people with guests and luminaries from all over the world." http://www.galwayoysterfest.com/

The festival's official Web site says:
The Galway Oyster Festival has come along way since its humble origins in 1954. The festival was the brainchild of Brian Collins, hotelier at the Great Southern Galway. His intention was to extend the tourist season into September with an Oyster Festival Banquet, which was first attended by just 34 people.

Since then the festival has become huge business. Sponsored by Guinness, it brings an estimated 2m euros into the local economy and has developed into one of Ireland's most celebrated festivals with a range of events.

Over the four days, the festival hosts the World Oyster Opening Championship, an annual beauty contest to select the Festival Pearl, a Mardi Gras Party with Champagne, Guinness and Oyster reception and an electrifying line-up of top class artists, an afternoon Marquee Reception (with more Guinness and Oysters) and the grand finale, the Gala Ball.

Last year, Norway's Řystein Reinsborg won the World Oyster Opening Championships for the second year in a row. Ben May, Australia's champion oyster shucker, placed fourth.

"I've eaten, I reckon, three natural oysters in my life. I just don't like 'em," 30-year-old May said, according to an article by Adam Harvey in the Brisbane Sunday Mail (a newspaper for which I worked as a cadet reporter before World War II).

Harvey said May learned the trade as a seafood processor on the Brisbane waterfront and regularly opened more than 3,000 oysters a day. And, like Olive Riley, he didn't like the taste of Guinness.

Earlier this year May attempted to break the world record while performing at Brisbane's Olivado Moreton Bay Seafood Festival 2007. http://www.moretonbayseafoodfestival.com.au/ "He needed to shuck 31 oysters in one minute to break the record," organizer Janine Crawford told me. "He shucked 30 oysters in the minute, which equalled the current world record."


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