In Florida, O is for oysters as well as October, and state officials expect a bumper oyster crop for the winter season that opened in the Panhandle last week. Rainy weather and cool temperatures in the late summer for the past few years and "a fairly remarkable comeback" in the Pensacola Bay system after a massive die-off are reasons for optimism, said Mark Berrigan, a state environmental administrator with the Department of Natural Resources. (Public waters are closed to harvesting in July, August and September to allow the populations to replenish. Some waters are closed permanently or periodically because of excessive pollution.) Since one diner's raw pleasure on the half shell may be another's poison, the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services recommends that no one eat raw shellfish because of the potential for diseases such as hepatitis, while Natural Resources says oysters harvested and handled legally and properly are almost risk-free for most people. Both agencies advise against consumption of raw oysters by people who suffer from chronic liver diseases and stomach, blood and immune system disorders, including AIDS.
Discovered: Italian recipes
To put an Italian accent on Columbus Day, liqueurmaker Molinari Sambuca is giving away a brochure of the favorite dishes of Italian-Americans such as Ben Gazzara, Henry Mancini, Tommy Lasorda and Mario Andretti. Write to Molinari Sambuca Extra, 35 E 21st St., Fourth Floor, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Fish cooking made simple
Here's a simple standard: Measure the fish at its thickest point and cook 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Bonus rule: If it's less than an inch thick, you don't have to turn it. That holds for just about any way you cook fish: broil, pan-fry or grill. The only exception to the 10-Minute Rule, say the makers of ReaLemon, is in microwaving, but fish cooks so fast why fire up the microwave?
Easy to open? We wish
Here's one for the Gee, We Didn't Know We Needed It Department: an orange piece of plastic that you stab into the top of a box to open it. The Original Boxtopper is for those of us who have patiently sawed away at the perforated crescents on rice and laundry-detergent boxes, only to pull up on the top and endup with a piece of cardboard in hand and a floor covered with rice. To order, send $2 (color choice of orange or yellow), name and address to Boxtoppers, P.O. Box 328, Bath, Ohio 44210.