Food & Drink

So, What Exactly Is Merroir?

A Word for Describing Your Favorite Bivalves

By UrbanDaddy Staff ·
Every so often, you come across a curious piece of menu jargon. It sounds familiar. It looks familiar. But what the heck is it, really? Great question.

Sounds like a job for The Interpreter.

The word: Merroir (mare-wär).

Its origin: A bivalve-loving food writer for The Seattle Times, who coined the term in 2003 after slurping some particularly fresh Pacific oysters. Also, the French language.

What it means: “Mer” (which means “sea”) is combined with the suffix “-oir” (which usually denotes a specific place) to provide a marine corollary to the word “terroir”—a long-accepted term for the way environmental factors affect a crop, commonly used in tandem with wine or coffee.

What it really means: How an oyster’s taste reflects the waters where it was raised. Which, as far as descriptions go, is a whole hell of a lot easier to comprehend.

Alternate spellings: Meroir. “Terroir” has two R’s because it’s derived from the French word “terre,” for “earth”; “merroir” should really only have one R because it’s derived from the word “mer.” Words, right?

Where you’ve seen it: High-brow food blogs; the “about” section of certain seafood-centric fine-dining restaurants; as a preface to the proclamatory sentence “It’s terroir for oysters.”

Why it’s worth acknowledging: The term gives some currency to what used to be a pretty groundless debate with your friends about East Coast versus West Coast oysters.

How to use it in casual conversation: Maybe it’s best that you don’t.

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