November 2, 2011

Blue Points vs. "Blue Points"

I really like the idea of protecting foods with laws like those of the AOC (France) and DOC (Italy), and I wish we could get some of that sort of regulation here. I think it would only benefit independent farmers. The idea behind these laws is that by protecting a product -- say, Prosciutto di Parma -- you protect the quality and consistency of that product. It is illegal in Italy to sell a product as Prosciutto di Parma if it is not produced following precise guidelines or within the region of Parma. Also, sparkling wine cannot be called Champagne, unless it is from the geographical region of Champagne in France. It is a strange concept for many Americans, but a concept that I strongly support.

This brings me to my point: why do we ignore similar laws locally, when they are meant protect the quality and reputation of products? In 1908, a law was passed in New York state regarding the production and distribution of Blue Point oysters in an attempt to do just that:

"§ 201-a. Blue Point oysters. No person, firm or corporation shall sell or offer for sale any oysters, or label or brand any package containing oysters for shipment or sale, under the name of Blue Point oysters, other than oysters that have been planted and cultivated at least three months in the waters of Great South bay in Suffolk county.
Formerly L. 1908, ch. 130, § 201-a."

Granted, three months is really not much time to become a true Blue Point, but it was deemed acceptable by the state that, after that amount of time, they would have developed enough of the local merquoi to be able to pass as such. I'm sure this law helped for a little while, but as can be seen in many establishments these days, it went largely unheeded. Today you can pretty much assume that any oyster offered up at $1 happy hour prices under the name Blue Point will be of poor quality, or at best be mostly lacking in flavor and complexity. There is one oyster, however, trying to reclaim the good reputation of Blue Point oysters: the Genuine Blue Point, grown by the Blue Island Oyster company in Great South Bay itself. I have eaten these on many occasions, and I can assure you that they are exceptional. More expensive than the usual happy hour options, but very much worth it.

I'm not saying you shouldn't indulge in those Blue Point knockoffs, sometimes they can surprise you. If you're just wanting to kick back with some friends and share some oysters over a few drinks, they just might be perfect.

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