On not eating the Dalai Lama….


Over the past few days it has been a rare moment when there has not been a bottle in front of me which state of affairs is, according the joke in many a Christmas cracker, infinitely preferable to a frontal lobotomy. I am relieved that my encounters with the ghost of Christmas Pissed are confined to the past, when the Yuletide Saturnalia demanded, and was afforded by this willing acolyte, an over indulgence in alcohol fueled devotions, often climaxing in the sudden ability to speak in tongues accompanied by an irresistible urge to kneel for many a long hour in noisome prayer before the porcelain altar. Yet even with restraint, and maybe on account of that very restraint, the length and stagnation of indolent days lobotomises as surely as any knife. Being abnormally tranquil, in accordance with the definition of the results of such a procedure, is no longer a hardship to me. Life in the slow lane is very much to my current taste, as are oysters. In the land of Lethargy the sloth is a cheetah on crystal meth when compared with the oyster, who is happy just to be, occasionally creating a pearl or another oyster. Few living things are more tranquil than the oyster although the Dalai Lama does spring to mind. Maybe I should rephrase that. Few living things that one is about to eat are as tranquil as the oyster which is probably why we eat them alive. If oysters put up a fight the Walrus and the Carpenter would have been toast. But there is a darker side to the oyster in that he may only be safely consumed when alive for to do otherwise would be to join him on the other side. This possibility may add a frisson of fear to some amateurs of the oyster, as in those who cannot resist the fugu fish, but not for me. I have never found that fear increases my appetite although it does increase my desire to evacuate anything that I may have recently ingested. I put my trust in those who cultivate them in this area and so far I have been proved right is so placing my trust.



These oysters were from Marennes Oleron on the Atlantic coast of France. I find that oysters from there are the best that I have eaten. The Atlantic coast, from Arcachon up to Brittany, produces very good oysters but those from Marennes Oleron have the right taste for me. Nothing improves on eating them directly from the shell. Lemon adds a zest that that fits with their marine lusciousness, whilst crisp white wine and bread prepare the palate for the next moment of pleasure. Altogether a very tranquil and satisfying experience…..if the Dalai Lama is not available.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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62 Responses to On not eating the Dalai Lama….

  1. Mad Dog says:

    I’ll take the oysters – I think the Dali Lama might be a little tough 😉

  2. margaret21 says:

    Do you know that for me, the best thing about not being in France over Christmas is that NOBODY WILL OFFER ME AN OYSTER TO EAT? I just don’t get them at all. Eeeergh. I know that makes me beyond the pale. Too bad.

  3. Angeline M says:

    I join the club of margaret21. As I read the part of your post about “eating” oysters, I wonder at that descriptor, as my limited and neophyte foodie mind thinks the oyster is just swallowed, yes? I’ll eat em fried (I hope you didn’t just choke).

  4. Ooh Manzi’s – that was where my parents used to take me for dinner before putting me on the train to Leeds and University – they made sure I had a good “last supper” each time! I digress – life in the slow lane with a box of oysters sounds like heaven to me….

  5. I could eat oysters every day. Love a nice balance between sweetness and brine.

  6. His Holiness the DL is not so tranquil. I have sat through hours and days of his lectures and, whilst becoming tranquil myself, His Holiness loves to laugh and joke. He wasn’t so tranquil on the issue of China and Tibet. BUt, back to the oysters- hand them over, all of them, I love oysters and am yet to try some from that coast.

    • My knowledge of the Dalai Lama is limited to his being a force for good…on the other hand, my knowledge of oysters on the Atlantic coast of France is fuller…you should check them out.A good itinerary would be flying into Bordeaux and on to Cap Ferret for Arcachon oysters…on to Oleron to taste the oysters of Gillardeau…Ile de Re is worth a stop and on to Noirmoutier…thence to Paris to try more Gillardeau oysters at Ducasse….wish I could do that…it would entail robbing a bank:)

  7. The metaphors come thick and fast and are just damn beautiful. I love what you wrote here! 🙂

  8. A bottle has been omnipresent this holiday, Roger. Ha. I manage to pace.

    MTM and I like this place in Atlanta, with an incredible oyster selection. We always order from the menu, like sushi with tick marks, and relish the differences from Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

  9. Fantastic and wonderful oysters and all!

  10. Sally says:

    Just read this on the Dalai Lama’s website….. “the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics and eating of oysters in the interest of human happiness” Spot on.

  11. fransiweinstein says:


  12. I, too, enjoyed a few bottles. But we have more wine bottles than wine holders so it has been a necessary chore. 🙂 At least that is my excuse!

  13. I am most partial to the concept of the Ghost of Christmas Pissed, though less easily led down the path that eating oysters alive increases peace and karma; and finally I am hugely relieved you are not planning to eat the Dalai Lama. That, I feel instinctively, would be a bad move.
    I have missed these pages hugely; I hope this has been restorative, and that you and yours have an excellent New Year.
    All the best for 2015, Roger x

    • And the same to you and yours, Kate…and Macaulay and his new sidekick. The mistake of eating the Dalai Lama reminds me of a small article in an old Private Eye which went thus “John Wayne has licked the Big C”…our medical correspondent notes that this is a very unwise move”. Happy New Year:)

  14. catterel says:

    The tranquillity of oysters reminds me of an ancient song – What kind of noise annoys an oyster? Frank Crumit, I think.

  15. Gorgeous photos and a very entertaining read as always! Happy new year to you Roger!

  16. Michelle says:

    I gave them up after a Paris food poisoning incident. But, my goodness, how tempting you make them. Happy new year, Roger!

  17. Oysters yes Fugu fish no!

  18. Ugg. I’ll take the wonderful writing, but I’ll pass on the oysters. I try one valiantly every year, but I still think it’s the equivalent of swallowing phlegm with a bucketful of seawater. If you’re having lunch as you read this, bon appétit, hein.

    • Swallowing without chewing is the problem…although I avoid chewing phlegm whenever possible. I sort of feel the same about Macdonalds which I’ve only tried twice…on both occasions the experience brought Fay Maschler’s description of 100% beef to mind ….” the horns, the hooves and the pus”….hope you’re not having supper:)

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