A few years ago, I recall reading an article in a local French newspaper about what kinds of food the French enjoyed to eat while on holidays. The top answer was steamed mussels served in their shell with a creamy sauce.
My immediate thought was yes, completely understandable. Mussels are inexpensive, delicious, easy to prepare and they're fun and slow to eat - which means you get to savour each (and every) mouthful.
The French love seafood probably just as much as the Greeks and the Japanese.
My late mother who instilled in me the pleasures of the table would practically refuse to eat meat (except for charcuterie) when she was within a few kilometres from the sea.
She taught her five children how to deal with bones when eating a whole fish. Her secret was not to use a knife to cut fish, but a fork to lift the cooked flesh from the bone - and that tip has always stayed with me.
She taught us how to eat oysters and shellfish, including crabs, scampi and sea snails, and I had a great appreciation for fresh seafood.
As a teenager, my father taught my brothers and I the skills of opening oysters. A freshly opened oyster is heaven to my palate and I was shocked on my arrival in Australia 40 years ago to find that all oysters in fish shops were sold to the public already opened.
Nowadays, one of my favourite indulgences is a seafood platter with oysters and a variety of freshly cooked shellfish. I prefer it with a piece of rye bread with butter and a shallot and red wine vinegar dressing.
This year's Tour de France cycling race starts from the Atlantic island of Noirmoutier in the region of Pays de Loire.
During my youth, I went several times on holiday to this beautiful place famous for its fine sea salt, new season potatoes and fresh seafood, in particular, oysters.
The island has several busy fishing ports and I was thrilled to be able to shoot a segment for this year's Taste Le Tour featuring the local seafood at the fabulous village market of Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile. Freshness is so important to the locals and the majority of the fish are displayed and sold whole, rather than filleted - the fishmonger is here to do it for you, once you've selected your fish.
At the Noirmoutier market, all oysters are sold unopened and any opened ones are for tasting. The scallops are alive in their shells, and the lobsters, scampi and sea spiders also come alive.
Oui, the French love their fresh seafood!
The Best of Taste le Tour with Gabriel Gaté airs every night from Saturday 6 July and finishes Sunday 28 July 2019. Visit the Taste le Tour website to catch-up on episodes online, scroll through recipes or find out more about the show.