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Oyster sellers

Girls with oysters have always excited the imaginations of men. The bare-

breasted ama divers and bare-footed Arcachon oyster harvesters were a

source of delight and objects of sexual fantasies. Whereas fully dressed and

shod oyster sellers acquired an ill reputation.

The things the rumours attributed to them! Beware, naive oyster lover! This

beauty comes armed with a knife. The oyster girl will pry open your heart and

wallet with the same ease as she does with the clams!

And don’t think the lovely lady is only selling oysters. Any of them would gladly

put their body on sale, too.

I read somewhere that all of the numerous paintings depicting oyster sellers

all have the same coded message, and if you look closely enough, you’ll

understand that the girls aren’t actually selling the molluscs.

Apparently, they are betrayed by poses, looks and details in their clothes.

Some of them are only acting shy, to crank up the price, as everyone knows

how these oyster girls really made a living.

Just think of the many songs that have been composed about the oyster

sellers! The song about sweet Molly Milton, who broke the hearts of simple-

hearted admirers was popular in 18th-century London tea gardens.

Or take Molly Malone who used to sell molluscs in the streets, and has

become one of the unofficial symbols of Dublin. The local legends say this

beauty lived in the 18th century, and sold molluscs only in the daytime, while

at night she had another easy way of making a profit.

In 1987, as part of the Dublin Millennium celebrations, a statue of Molly was

unveiled at the crossroads of Grafton Street and Suffolk Street, which the

citizens have nicknamed The Tart With The Cart and The Trollop With The


The folk song telling of her beauty and sad fate is now used as a cheer by Irish football and

rugby fans, and can also be heard in the film A Clockwork Orange.

Nevertheless, food historian Caitlyn Wall is certain that all these legends are just an

after-effect of the myth about the miraculous properties of oysters as an aphrodisiac,

due to their outward resemblance of female genitalia.

By the way, turnip is an aphrodisiac too. For some reason I’ve yet to come across

legends and songs of conniving and promiscuous turnip-peddlers. Guess I’ll have to

keep searching.

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