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If you want to be lavish at your cocktail party, place oysters on plates with small containers of cocktail sauce in the centre. Opened oysters dry out very quickly, so they are a very "dicey" item for a cocktail party. Don't leave them uncovered, either in or out of the fridge. Cover them with damp greaseproof paper if they have to stand any length of time, and keep cool in the refrigerator. I suggest you serve lots of thinly sliced brown or rye bread with your oysters- they'll go further that way. I hope you know, too, that oysters can vary in size and taste, depending on the season. You can obtain small disposable forks for the oysters-they are plastic, very reasonably priced and a great saving with the washing up. Anyway, it's so easy to scrape little oyster forks into the rubbish bin, with the shells, that it's a very good idea to use the plastic ones. Finely cracked ice is good as a bed for oysters, but a nuisance at parties.

If you would like to serve oysters cooked, the following recipes are popular ones. There are other oyster recipes in the Seafoods section

Allow from 6 to 12 oysters per person, if you are using them for an entree. If the oysters have not been opened, open them and see that the shells are cleaned and that no pieces of shell are penetrating the oysters.

Wash carefully, but please do not wash and wash the oysters under a running tap. Retain as much of the oyster's natural juice as you can. If you have bought the oysters already opened, they will probably be OK, and won't need washing. Do not leave open oysters uncovered in the refrigerator, as this tends to dry them out, and a dry film forms over the oyster flesh. Cover oysters with wet greaseproof paper if you are not intending to use them for a while. Be careful not to make the oysters too cold. The flavour is gone if you do.

Serve on special oyster plates (these have a recess or fixed cup in the centre for sauce) or on ordinary dinner plates with small containers to hold sauces, etc. in the centre. Vinegar, horseradish sauce, tartare sauce, cocktail sauce are just a few of the many sauces you can use. Serve the oysters with lemon wedges, freshly ground pepper and salt, and thin brown bread and butter.