This afternoon an orientation meeting was held and everyone stood up and introduced themselves to the group. “Hi, my name is (insert name here). I am from (insert town here) and a retired (insert occupation here).” When it got around to one guy, let’s call him John, because that is his name, he introduced himself and stated rather emphatically, “I am NOT retired!” I meant to ask if he was bragging or complaining. Another member of the group introduced herself (I won’t mention a name for reasons that will soon become obvious) and said she was retired from the CIA. I wanted to ask what she had done at the CIA but was afraid she might have to shoot me after telling me. I assume she was not speaking of the Culinary Institute of America.
Then, this evening I had my first taste of lobster, or as they say in Maine, "lobstah". The tables were covered with newspaper and a big empty bowl sat in the center of each table. At each of the six places lay a plastic bib, a plastic fork, and a nutcracker. The nutcracker would be used for breaking open the big claws so that the meat could be pulled out. It was just like the ones we used back in Georgia to crack the shell of a pecan. This did seem a little better than using a pair of pliers from Home Depot.
The boiled-alive, now deceased, lobster was dropped onto my plate and appeared to be staring at me. It had two long tentacles, two bug-eyes, and ten legs. The ten legs included a pair of big claws (the “Pincher” claw and the “Crusher” claw) and eight legs that it used for walking.
I required help in dissecting the thing and I got a quick lesson in how and what to eat (there is some really gross stuff inside of a lobster!). All of the parts that are supposed to be good for eating are encased in a suit of armor (hard and boney calcified material). My “helper” picked the thing up in both hands, grabbed one claw, ripped it off, and then did the same with the other claw. After that he held the head in one hand, the tail in the other, and twisted and pulled until he tore the head from the tail. Then he cracked the armor of the tail and yanked it off (the armor, not the tail), exposing the meat (a big muscle). The tail is where most of the meat is located and is the easiest to access. I was told that there was also some meat in the head and body but I wasn’t about to stick my fingers inside and probe around for meat after seeing some of the very unappetizing stuff inside.
There was some green yucky stuff, called the “tomalley” (I thought they were saying “Tamale” at first). This is the digestive gland and is not usually eaten, although there are some people who consider it a delicacy. These are probably very strange people and should be avoided if at all possible. If the lobster is female, there may also be some yucky red stuff inside. This is the “roe” (unfertilized eggs). Some people consider this a delicacy. They are not quite as strange as the people who eat the green stuff but I’m still not too sure about them.
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has published a set of instructions on how to eat lobster. If you read them you may never want to eat lobster again. For example:
“Most people start by breaking off the legs….Don’t throw these away; there are plenty of delicious morsels inside!”
As for the claws, “Tear them off at the first joint, again with a gently twisting motion.”
“Again, check for especially tasty morsels in small parts!”
“You may also encounter the gills, the circulation system, and green “tomalley” (the digestive gland).”
In regard to the small flippers on the end of the tail, “These provide tasty if miniscule chunks of meat to those who don’t mind a little extra work.”
So, how was I going to eat this thing when I really didn’t like looking at it or touching it? Sometimes we just have to step up to the plate (no pun intended) and do unpleasant things even when we would rather not). You have to psych yourself up and say to yourself, “I can do this!” And then you force yourself to eat it, while the entire time your expression is frozen into a grimace. Eating should be a pleasant experience.
As I have said before, and still say, these things are one of the grossest looking creatures I have ever seen. They do look quite similar to a crawfish, which I consider an insect and will not eat. Rich, who was sitting to my right tonight, even likened it to a giant roach because of the antenna and the crunching noise it makes when stepped on.
Considering what a lobster dinner will set you back these days, you have to work very hard for a relatively small amount of meat, which must then be soaked in melted butter to give it some taste. It’s just not worth it to me. And did I mention how ugly the things are?
The blueberry pie was excellent!
The blueberry pie was excellent!