Cook's books

HEAVEN ON THE HALF SHELL

by David S. Gordon, Nancy E. Blanton, and Terry Y. Nosho (WestWinds Press, $21.95) "Oh, sure," a gray-haired Justin Taylor said, standing among the other gray-haired oystermen of Washington. "There are young guys in the business. My two sons and a son-in-law," says the longtime owner of Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, which dates to his grandfather's days, the 1880s (Grandpa also ranched with Wyatt Earp). "They do all the work, I take all the credit," said a smiling Taylor, dining, of course, on oysters at Elliott's a few weeks ago. He and other members of historic oyster-farming families of Washington were on hand for the book-release party for Heaven on the Half Shell, a loving retelling of their oyster industry's 150-year growth, plump with exotic recipes and engaging photos and graphics. Washington's sea farmers, including an array of Native Americans, have long diked Puget Sound and coastal bay tidelands to create beds and harvest native species, making the oyster a prized commercial heritage like apples and salmon. But oyster farming today includes high-tech hatcheries rigged to speed the growing process and to rear imported seedlings such as the Japanese Kumo. Biologists also toy with oyster genetics to produce new crossbred strains in spawning tanks or jiggle the chromosomes to create such marvels as the indoor sexless oyster (referring to how the shellfish is bred and raised, not its effect on the eater). Taylor Shellfish even sends millions of seed oysters in six-pack beer coolers on vacation to Hawaii, where they're stored in temperate waters and returned here in the warm season. "You know," the semiretired Justin Taylor said, looking out at the rain pelting Seattle's harbor, "maybe I'll just send myself this year." Rick Anderson randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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