Hi from Galway, Ireland! Today we have a special treat -- a video blog!
We are here for the big Oyster Festival, at the recommendation of Patrick McMurray (known for his restaurant, Starfish, his book Consider the Oyster, and, most recently, his Leslieville pub Ceili Cottage), who is himself a former World Champion Oyster Opener at this very competition.
In fact, we ran into him just as we arrived at the main event -- the Oyster Tasting, a bargain at 55 Euros a person (as opposed to the 110 Euros for tonight's big Gala dinner) -- and he took us backstage to get a bit of insight on the action as the competitors in this year's Oyster Opening Championship warmed up. (I apologize in advance for the sound quality in the latter part of the video. There was a ton of background noise and because I had to stay out of the way of the servers carting stacks of oyster platters out into the main room, I couldn't get the camera close enough to Patrick for the mic to pick up well. If you can make any of it out, he is mainly talking about the different shucking techniques of the various competitors.)
Before the competition began we feasted on a delicious seafood platter that included smoked salmon, baby prawns, some sort of seafood paté, and salad, plus, of course, a plate of six lovely oysters!
The competition is very spirited and pretty intense. Before they start, each competitor must provide a psedonym so that the judges will not know whose platter of 30 oysters is whose. Audience members shout out suggestions, which the MC takes or leaves at his whim. The first round included competitors nicknamed "Obama" and "Clinton." There was a "Michael Jackson" and a "Shakespeare." This is the third and final heat, featuring the Swedish, Canadian, American, and Estonian competitors. Naturally, we were rooting for the Canadian!
Oyster openers get penalties and bonus points for presentation of their opened oysters, which are added on to the time it takes for them to open 30 oysters in order to arrive at the winner. Watch the American in this video -- the way his knife cuts through the oysters makes them look like they are just made of butter. Also watch the Swede -- cool as a cucumber and perfectly focused! He later won for presentation.
Oysters may be the main event this weekend, but of course the Irish love their trad, so there was music and dancing too. I'll leave you with this last clip -- enjoy; we certainly did!
After Galway: WWOOFing in County Sligo for about a week.
PS to Dawn -- we are staying at the Salmon Weir hostel, where you and I and Sean and Heather stayed in Galway 10 years ago! It hasn't changed a bit. :)