February 26, 2010

Jax’s Oyster-eating Competition Sucks (Pun Intended) ~ Elleni Cladis

Update: The oysters are from sustainable farms. Not wild-harvested. From brackish river mouth estuaries, not the ocean. Jax supports and funds the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which is trying to eliminate wild oyster harvests and set those farmers up with sustainable practices. Additionally, Jax has taken all fish/seafood products on the national watchlist off their menus company-wide.

Big Red F, our friend Dave Query’s restaurant group (includes West Wend, Zolo, Centro, Jax Boulder and Jax Denver, Lola and Happy Noodle),was the first wind-powered restaurant group in Colorado: composting, using some local and organic, using only green cleaning materials and soaps. All-natural meats. Bio-degradable to-go packaging. And more. All at a higher price and less profitable result to the company (though we know good press, and well-deserved customer loyalty are pricesless).

Big Red F goes out of its way to do the right thing.

And they do so, so modestly, that righteous hippie blogs like ours don’t give ’em enough props for doing so. Props.

The oyster eating contest, which we criticize below, has raised over $75,000 over the last 12 years for Boulder and Denver community services—and that’s just one event at one of Big Red F’s restaurants. Finally, in the case of the oyster-eating contest, all the product gets eaten. There is no waste. And the contestants “pay” for the oysters with the thousands of dollars they each raise.

Any fault in the below reporting is mine alone. ~ Waylon Lewis

Original ed’s note: While we generally have nothing but love and admiration for our friends at Jax, oyster-eating contests are, like shooting buffalo from the trains of a century ago, an Amerian tribal rite that should fade away—before we’ve tapped our oceans of oysters.

Food eating competitions generally, while fun (and in this case, for some very worth causes) are the epitome of mindlessness. Love oysters? Then at least savor the experience of eating them. ~ Waylon Lewis

Ready, set, slurp!

Oyster-eating contests are fun. Especially when for charity. But are they “mindful”? Eco-responsible? No.

Jax Fish House is hosting its 12th Annual Oyster Weeks in Boulder for the week of March 1st and then in Denver for the week of March 7th.  This event benefits the Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) and the Gathering Place by donating 12 cents for every oyster ordered during this time period.  There are a wide selection of oyster dishes and drinks, as well as a raffle to win a dozen oysters every month for a year.  This sounds like a great event—bringing people together with food and using proceeds from sales to donate to organizations helping those in need.

But, hold on for just one second.  The biggest and ultimate event that takes place during Oyster Weeks has yet to be mentioned.  It’s the “Big Kahuna,” if you will:

The Oyster Eating Contest!

That’s right folks—step right up, unbuckle those belts, and start stuffing as many oysters into your mouth as you can. Screw eco-responsibility and the mindful killing of the little beings, just see how many of those little suckers you can put away in 90 seconds.  Or, if you’re on a team, you’ll get 30 seconds and, hopefully, your three other group members can keep up with your pace, because they’ll also get half a minute to try and become the #1 bestest and awesome-est group of people to epitomize mindless consumption of far-flown sentiment beings.

It’s really the principle of the matter.  This may come as a shock, but not everyone in the world is a vegetarian:  millions and millions of people either don’t want to be, or don’t have the means to be, vegetarian. I’m not vegetarian, and don’t want to be. To each our own! Still, that doesn’t give we carnivores the right to slaughter living organisms for amusement.

In his song, “Great White Buffalo,” gonzo guitarist Ted Nugent sings about the coexistence of Native Americans and buffalo:

“The Indian and the buffalo/They existed hand in hand/The Indian needed food/He needed skins for a roof/But he only took what they needed, baby/Millions of buffalo were the proof.”

In the next stanza, Nugent complains about the arrival of the white man and his attitudes:

“But then came the white dogs/With their thick and empty heads/They couldn’t see past the billfold/They wanted all the buffalo dead/Everything was SO sad.”

Killing animals without a purpose is sad! The sacrifice of life for selfish entertainment purposes like an Oyster Eating Contest stinks.  It demeans life.  If you’re going to kill an animal for food, an oyster in this case, savor its essence!  No man is an island, remember?  Do you really think the gluttonous contestants are bothering to enjoy the taste of those little creatures while shoving them down their throats as fast as they can?

Probably not. And that’s a huge issue that’s not being dealt with. People are not considering the consequences of their excess in terms of those with whom we share this earth, as well as in terms of our earth, itself.  We can’t just keep robotically taking animal lives without experiencing the repercussions of wasting these resources. Already our oceans are depleted of many kinds of fish, putting thousands upon thousands of fishermen out of work.

Killing without a purpose? Not cool people, not cool. And this will soon come to haunt those of us who partake in these inconsiderate acts when there are no more animals left to consume.

And then there’s the fact of how all of those soon-to-be eaten oysters are getting to my Colorado, a land-locked state.  Do oysters come from the meager ponds and lakes scattered around here?  Nope. They are shipped in from many other places around the county and, in some cases, from around the world.  Guaranteeing the freshest…no…semi-freshest…hmmm…oysters you can possibly get. Consider the carbon footprint involved in getting those little beings here!

Oh, right, we don’t care.

As with most seafood, there is wild harvesting and farmed harvesting, both of which are facing difficult times due to increasing amounts of pollutants in the ocean and decreasing amounts of actual oysters as a consequence of overfishing, being a general trend right now.  If you want to enjoy oysters, or any other seafood for that matter, overfishing is the last thing that should be going down.

So, yeah, if you want to go out and support mindless and ridiculous consumption by wasting our environmental resources and hundreds or even thousands of oysters’ lives to see how many of the little beings you can jam into your gullet, then the Oyster Eating Contest is just for you!  (insert fake-cheesy-smile here).

Throwback! Check out Disney’s version of oyster consumption


To be fair, because we like and respect Jax and everyone there, we wish to remind our readers that this is a charitable event. Photos and info:

  • Over the years, Jax ‘Oyster Weeks’ has donated over $42,000 to benefit such charities as Project Angel Heart, The Children’s Hospital, the Robby Ferrufino Memorial Fund, Imagine!, MAKE IT RIGHT and the Louisiana Oyster Community Relief Fund.
  • This year, Jax will be donating proceeds from Oyster Weeks to EFFA and The Gathering Place.
  • Josh Hagen holds the record for eating 124 oysters in 2003.
  • Jax Fish House Boulder will be celebrating Oyster Weeks March 1st-7th
    Oyster Eating Contest: March 7th, 3pm at Jax Boulder, doors open at 12pm
  • Jax Fish House Denver will be celebrating Oyster Weeks March 8th-14th
    Oyster Eating Contest: March 14th, 3pm at Jax Denver, doors open at 12pm

    the RULES: eat as many oysters as possible in a 90 second time period. The contestants receive a tray filled with 75 pre-shucked oysters on the half shell. If the contestant consumes all the oysters on the tray, supplemental dozens are given to the contestant. Each contestant has an individual judge to ensure that the oysters are swallowed. The judges are responsible for counting the oyster shells to determine the number of oysters eaten. Contestants are allowed to “flavor or dress” each oyster before the competition begins, but are not allowed to move the oyster out of their shell prior to the start of the competition. For an oyster to be counted in the final total, it must be in the contestant’s mouth at the end of the time limit (i.e. not in the contestant’s hands). The competition contains 2 heats. The contestant that consumes the most oysters at the end of the 2 rounds will be declared the

    the TECHNIQUE: in the past, we have seen the oysters dumped in a pint glass and guzzled, oyster
    individually slurped from the shell and a hands-on grabbing oyster and throwing them in the mouth
    technique. All is fair in love and oyster contests as long as the slimy little guys end up in your mouth
    and swallowed within the time limit.
    the PRIZE: 3 day / 2 night trip to Las Vegas!!!
    the RECORD: The Jax Boulder record is 113 oysters in 90 seconds in March 2005 by the one & only
    Ang McDonald.
    The Jax Denver record is 100 oysters in 90 seconds, set in March 2005 by Denver’s Oyster
    Champion, Steve “Guido” Orth.

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