It happens to everyone eventually: Contentedly catching up on Netflix at 2 a.m., you're struck by the desire — nay, the need — for shellfish. But while we live in the era of 24-hour delivery, getting your hands on seafood outside regular business hours used to be pretty much impossible... outside of France, anyway. Enter the 24/7 oyster vending machine in France, which supplies all your bivalve-related needs at any time of day (or night).
According to Food & Wine, the machine was invented by Brigitte and Tony Berthelot, two oyster farmers on the French island Île de Ré. Developed in response to the surprisingly large number of customers with midnight oyster cravings, it sits next to the couple's traditional shop, L'Huitrière de Ré. Unlike the shop, however, the vending machine is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those who are already envisioning the food poisoning will be comforted to know that the refrigerated machine is stocked with fresh oysters every day, and they're sold closed to limit health risks. That also means customers have to do a little shucking on their own before they can dig in, but if you're the kind of person to buy oysters after hours, you probably won't mind a little extra work.
Believe it or not, the convenience doesn't cost extra. The oysters start at €6.90 (about $8) for a dozen, which is the same price they go for in the shop. People who prefer to plan their seafood consumption ahead of time can order in advance via text message. This opens up access to an extended menu including sea asparagus and pate.
The oyster might rank among the most unexpected products for a vending machine, but it has plenty of competition. In France alone, they have been known to offer eggs, cheese, and even raw meat. Live crabs have been sold through vending machines in China, and you can use them to purchase hamburgers in the Netherlands. Caviar vending machines are surprisingly common, found in cities from Moscow to Los Angeles. Clearly, Americans aren't the only ones to value convenience — and better yet, avoiding social interaction — when ordering food. The fewer people you speak to, the lower the risk of embarrassing yourself.
The oyster vending machine is only available in France, so it's less than convenient for anyone outside the country. Then again, the Île de Ré has resorts aplenty — time for a seafood-themed vacay?