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Distributed for Reaktion Books


A Global History

Naturally high in essential vitamins and minerals, oysters are one of the oldest known foods consumed by humans. Varying in size from as small as a grape to as large as a dinner plate, the humble oyster has played an outsized role in the building of empires and the discovery of new lands. Consumed by both rich and poor, the oyster has inspired writers, poets, painters, and even lovers—Casanova was said to have started each day with a breakfast of fifty oysters.

In Oysters: A Global History Carolyn Tillie delves into the culinary, artistic, sexual, historical, and scientific history of the humble bivalve. She shows how the oyster encouraged immigration and industry in the newly established United States, how it perpetuated slavery among those working in the oyster beds, and how Japan unexpectedly became the savior of the world’s oyster industry. Packed with colorful anecdotes, recipes, and more than fifty illustrations, this little book is a delightful introduction to the lore of the oyster.

208 pages | 40 color plates, 20 halftones | 4 3/4 x 7 3/4


Food and Gastronomy

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"For the past fifteen years, Reaktion Books has produced marvelous short studies of animals and foodstuffs. I have reviewed nearly all of them here. Rebecca Stott's Oyster is one of the very best of the Animal series, but till now there was no corresponding Edible title. Tillie's global history of the shellfish as food fills that gap, and complements Stott's classic nicely. "

Tim Morris | lection

Table of Contents

1 Definition and Science
2 Prehistoric and Ancient History
3 Oysters in Asia
4 Oysters from the Middle Ages to the 1800s
5 Oysters in the New World: America and Australia
6 The Gilded Age
7 The Twentieth-century Oyster
8 Oysters as an Aphrodisiac
9 The Future of Oysters
Buying, Storing and Shucking Oysters
Select Bibliography
Websites and Associations
Oysters Bars and Farms
Oyster Festivals
Photo Acknowledgments

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