It’s holiday time, so why not splurge on a delicacy that is delightful and nutritious, though pretty expensive.

Oysters are a holiday tradition in many families and well worth the price tag, whether you opt for oysters on the half shell, scalloped oysters, or oyster stew.

Technically speaking, oysters are bivalve mollusks. They eat by pumping water through their bodies, a feat they manage at the rate of 20 quarts an hour.

In less educated times, we were told to avoid shellfish because of their high fat and sea salt content. Today we know that the fat in oysters, omega-3 fatty acid, is very good for the heart.

Omega-3s strengthen the heart, enabling it to beat soundly. They lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduce the tendency of platelets to stick together, say doctors in the Honolulu Heart Program.

In addition to protecting the heart, oysters are rich in vitamin B-12, which the body uses to keep nerves healthy and make red blood cells. When B-12 levels are low, memory loss, confusion, slow reflexes, and fatigue can occur. Just six oysters contain about 27 milligrams of B-12, about 181 percent of the daily value. Oysters also have magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C.

Here’s a nice holiday recipe:

Oysters au Gratin

  1. Pat 2 pints shucked oysters until dry. In a skillet, cook them in 1 tablespoon of margarine for 3 to 4 minutes or until the edges curl. Drain. Transfer to a casserole dish.
  2. In the same skillet, cook 1 cup mushrooms and 1 clove minced garlic in 2 tablespoons margarine until tender. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Add 3/4 cup milk. Cook and stir until thickened. Stir in 1/4 cup dry white wine, 2 tablespoons snipped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and spoon over oysters.
  3. Mix 3/4 cup soft bread crumbs with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Spoon over the sauce and bake at 400 degrees just until crumbs are brown.