2013-01-18 / Travel

Ma Normandie, My Normandy

Part 21: Cancale, Oyster Capital of France
By Warner M. Montgomery
WarnerM@ TheColumbiaStar.com


Fishing for Oysters at Cancale (1878) by John Singer Sargent Fishing for Oysters at Cancale (1878) by John Singer Sargent Oysters are bivalve mollusks which live in salt or brackish water. The word "oyster" comes from Old French “oistre,” derived from Latin “ostrea.” Oysters are consumed, cooked or raw, by humans as a delicacy.

Just across the bay from Mont St. Michel was the surprise of the trip, Cancale, a picturesque fishing village known as the “oyster capital” of France. This small town is full of seafood restaurants where fashionable diners watch oystermen bring their catch from sea to table while dining on French wine and the delicate crustaceans.

Famous French painter Eugène Feyen (1815- 1908) painted the oysterpickers while downing his share. John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), the American Impressionist, famous for his portraits of Madame X, Robert Louis Stevenson, John D. Rockefeller, and Theodore Roosevelt recorded his visit to Cancale in his 1878 Fishing for Oysters at Cancale. These works, though painted a century ago, show oyster farming and eating in Cancale that we witnessed in 2012.


Oyster- pickers by Eugène Feyen, late 1880s Oyster- pickers by Eugène Feyen, late 1880s Next Week: Oyster Fun



Oyster- eaters on Seawall at Cancale (2012) by Warner Montgomery Oyster- eaters on Seawall at Cancale (2012) by Warner Montgomery

The oyster-pickers of Cancale harvest 25,000 tons of oysters annually from five square miles of oyster beds and scores of restaurants that serve them cooked or raw. The oyster-pickers of Cancale harvest 25,000 tons of oysters annually from five square miles of oyster beds and scores of restaurants that serve them cooked or raw.

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