Why do American mussels make me barf?
March 26, 2010 9:36 PM   Subscribe

I enjoyed mussels in Europe, why are they making me vomit in America?

I know mussels are a higher-risk food (well, at least from Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential), but in Europe I enjoyed mussels regularly. Unfortunately, every time I've had mussels in America the night has ended in barf. I've eaten then in several restaurants that are fancy in several states. I eat oysters and shrimp without a problem. Is it an issue of improper handling or am I just sensitive to American mussels?
posted by melissam to Food & Drink (14 answers total)
Have you been eating them at the same place on the same day of the week?
posted by griphus at 9:43 PM on March 26, 2010

Nope, different restaurants different days. First time was in Seattle on a Friday. Last time was today in Brooklyn.
posted by melissam at 9:46 PM on March 26, 2010

If you're willing to risk the barf factor again, I suggest obtaining mussels that you know to be fresh and preparing them yourself (cheap and easy!) If you have a bad reaction.... then there's your answer. If not, then maybe your tastes just run a bit more European. Another factor to consider is what went along with those mussels.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Could you be eating a different species of mussel here in the US than in Europe?
posted by strixus at 9:57 PM on March 26, 2010

According to this, there are 17 species of edible mussels, so you're probably getting different ones in the U.S.
posted by amyms at 10:41 PM on March 26, 2010

Probably just the species and/or preparations. (I recommend the green New Zealand ones, incidentally.)

HOWEVER, maybe it's not the mussels themselves. Anything else different? Sauces? Side dishes? Drinks? Rotating restaurant? A bit of the flu?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:21 PM on March 26, 2010

"Europe" is a very large place. Where exactly did you eat them?
posted by halogen at 11:49 PM on March 26, 2010

I ate them mostly in Sweden and Norway. I don't remember too much about them except the ones in Norway were fairly bright orange. Guess I could try a cook off once I recover with different species to see if my homecooking avoids this problem or if not, which species are barf-free.
posted by melissam at 12:03 AM on March 27, 2010

Hello, euro mussels fan speaking here. The species most used in restaurants here is Mytilus Edulis. The quality of the mussels can vary widely. Since a couple of years, here in Holland they are seeded and harvested in so called rope farms. If you wonder how they do it, watch these videos).They are sold in supermarkets in pressurized packaging, in which they added extra oxygen to the gas mix. This will keep them alive for days. Since they introduced this system, the quality of the mussels increased substantially. I haven't had a bad one in years. The prices also have gone up (expect to pay $10 a kilo), but damn, they are delicious.

Oh, and Sys Rq, thanks for the rotating restaurant excuse, sounds like a great reason to call in sick one day.
posted by ouke at 1:43 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another possibility, if it's been a while since Europe:

I used to love mussels, but I developed an allergy to them after many years of eating them happily, and they now make me vomit. Could it just be that you can't eat ANY mussels anymore, but the ones you happen to be trying are American?
posted by cider at 4:24 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

FYI, most mussels sold in "Europe" (unless you buy the very expensive ones explicitly labelled as local) are flown in from New Zealand.
posted by randomstriker at 7:28 PM on March 27, 2010

I have only ever eaten mussels in Europe.

I used to love them and ate them relatively regularly, then one day I was violently ill after a very enjoyable mussel eating session.

After getting over the psychological barrier to eating them, I ordered some in a restaurant that I knew would have fresh and safe mussels - they came from the bay across the road from the restaurant and were 'harvested' that day.

I enjoyed them, but unfortunately got sick that night. I seem to have developed an intolerance for some reason.

And as for the mussels sold in Europe being from New Zealand, I've never heard that before and am not convinced it is true.
posted by knapah at 7:48 AM on March 28, 2010

FYI, most mussels sold in "Europe" (unless you buy the very expensive ones explicitly labelled as local) are flown in from New Zealand.
Although you can certainly find New Zealand mussels in Europe, they are certainly not "most" of the market. They are quite distinctive with greenish shells usually called "green lip" or "green shell." Imports from Chile into Europe dwarf New Zealand and domestic production is healthy. (source)

I mention this primarily because I came in the thread to suggest that my wife reacts poorly to the New Zealand green lip mussels (although less dramatically than melissam) and we often find them on offer in the states, whereas we never have been served them in Europe. You might experiment with avoiding the New Zealand variety. In addition to the greenish tint, they are often astonishingly large, which I have come to associate with the New Zealand type.
posted by Lame_username at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2010

I had some cultivated Maine mussels at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. No barfing! Guess I was just unlucky the other times and Grand Central Oyster Bar keeps their seafood fresh and clean.
posted by melissam at 1:14 PM on April 22, 2010

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