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Oysters and Guinness

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
Photos © Mike Rubbo

Olive, Oysters and Guiness   .Olive, Eric & lunch

My old (very old) friend Olive Riley, her helper Mike Rubbo and I enjoyed an Oysters and Guinness lunch at the heritage-listed Ye Olde Woy Woy Hotel the other day. Olive, who will be 108 on October 20, and is the world's oldest blogger, eagerly downed 14 Sydney Rock oysters, but shuddered when she sipped the Guinness, said it tasted too bitter, and then enjoyed a shandy (half beer, half lemonade).

Millions of folk around the world with Irish blood in their veins believe 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

form a perfect meal (so do I).

OystersIn 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. Organisers claim it's "one of the biggest events in Irelandís 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." The official website 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 Irelandís 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 ōystein Reinsborg won the World Oyster Opening Championships for the second year in a row. Ben May, Australia's champion oyster shucker, was 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 paper on which I was 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 3000 oysters a day. And, like Olive Riley, he doesn't like the taste of Guinness.

Earlier this year he attempted to break the world record while performing at Brisbane's Moreton Bay Seafood Festival. "He equalled the world record but did not break it," said festival organiser Janine Crawford.

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Story first posted October 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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