Mollusks
(Oysters, Clams and Mussels)

Oysters, clams and mussels are mollusks with a soft body and a hard outer shell.  They are also known as bivalues.

Utensils
The most likely additional utensil you will face when eating mollusks is an oyster fork, which is similar or identical to a seafood fork. This utensil is for individual use and would be provided as part of your place setting or would be brought with the course.
Eating Oysters Raw
Raw oysters are served on the half shell on a bed of ice.  They may be seasoned with sauce or lemon.  They may be served with cocktail sauce. (Click here for more on seafood cocktails)
If provided, you may wish to squeeze lemon juice on your oysters.  The lemon may be presented as a half which has been covered with a layer of cheesecloth.  This cloth is provided to prevent seeds and pulp from spraying from the lemon when squeezed; it should, therefore, be left on the lemon when you squeeze it.
Hold the shell with one hand and the oyster or seafood fork is used to lift the meat from the shell.  Typically, the oyster meat has been professional detached before being served.
The oyster fork is used to consume the meat.  A raw oyster is eaten in one bite, but that does not mean it should not be chewed once it is in your mouth.  It is not only dangerous to swallow an oyster whole, but it also defeats the purpose of eating it.  "It is impolite to shoot whole oysters across the room from your throat" during a Heimlich maneuver (Martin).
The speared oyster can be dipped in sauce or the fork can be dipped in the sauce prior to lifting the oyster. Oyster crackers can be dropped in the sauce and eaten with your oyster fork.
Shells are discarded in the container provided for that purpose or on the edge of your plate.
In very informal settings, such as an oyster bar, the oyster can be sucked directly from the shell.  The empty shell may be picked up and used to scoop a bit of broth which is sipped quietly, directly from the shell.
Eating Oysters Smoked
Smoked oysters are sometimes served on a toothpick or with crackers as an appetizer (click to see more about hors d'oeuvers).
When cooked oysters are served on a plate and removed from a shell, they are eaten with the fork provided for that course. 
Eating Clams Raw
Raw clams are served on the half shell on a bed of ice. They may be served with cocktail sauce. (Click here for more on seafood cocktails)
Hold the shell with one hand and the oyster or seafood fork is used to extract the meat from the shell
The oyster fork is used to consume the meat.  A raw clam is eaten in one bite, but that does not mean it should not be chewed.
The speared clam can be dipped in sauce or the fork can be dipped in the sauce prior to lifting the clam.
Shells are discarded in the container provided for that purpose or on the edge of your plate.
In very informal settings, such as an oyster bar, the clam can be sucked directly from the shell.  The empty shell may be picked up and used to scoop a bit of broth which is sipped quietly, directly from the shell.
Eating Clams Steamed
Steamed clams should be served at least half open. Do not eat any clam in a shell that is not at least half opened.
Steamed clams are removed from the shell with a seafood fork.  First pull the shell open, if the clam has a neck, a "true steamer" (Post) remove the skin off the neck and set it aside. 
The speared clam can be dipped in sauce or melted butter.
Shells are discarded in the container provided for that purpose or on the edge of your plate.
In very informal settings, such as an oyster bar, the clam can be sucked directly from the shell.  The empty shell may be picked up and used to scoop a bit of broth which is sipped quietly, directly from the shell.
Eating Clams Fried
Fried clams are often battered before frying. 
Clams are often too rubbery to cut with the side of a fork alone, but are typically small enough to take in a single bite.
Fried clams may be served with lemon or a dipping sauce.
If provided, you may wish to squeeze lemon juice on your clams.  The lemon may be presented as a half which has been covered with a layer of cheesecloth.  This cloth is provided to prevent seeds and pulp from spraying from the lemon when squeezed; it should, therefore, be left on the lemon when you squeeze it.
Eating Mussels Steamed
Mussels are often served steamed in white wine or in a garlic broth.  Mussels may be served in a soup plate.. 
Hold the shell with one hand and the oyster or seafood fork is used to extract the meat from the shell.  The mussel is dipped into the wine sauce.  The broth may be eaten with a spoon like soup (Click soup to see more), if provided, or by spearing pieces of bread and dipping the bread in the sauce.
Eating Mollusks Added to Dishes
Cooked mollusks, in particular oysters, are often added to other dishes, sauces and soups. Mollusks in soups are eaten with the soup spoon and again, are eaten whole, but should be chewed.  (Click soup to see more). 
In this case, they are consume using the proper rule for that dish.
   

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Copyright Dr. Nancy D. Albers-Miller, All Rights Reserved