On Eating and Loving Food

Lobster, boiled, at the cottage

Hold the mac & cheese, and ice cream
Posted:  Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 11:15am
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Okay so I’ve written about lobster before, but it’s spring in Maine, and that means lobster season is coming.

It’s not that you can’t eat lobster in the off-season, but it’s usually far more expensive, and nowhere near as much fun. Lobster feeds should happen outside, near or on the ocean, and sitting outside eating lobster during a blizzard just doesn’t cut it.

Plus lobsters are usually hard-shell during the winter, and soft-shell lobsters are easier to get into, and sweeter.

My old friend Sammy Olson knows a lot more about lobsters than I. His father, John, has been lobstering since he was a kid, and he’s 96 and going strong – still hauling by hand – no noisy hydraulic pot haulers for him.

Sammy’s not hauling these days. He’s a lobster wheeler-dealer from his wharf in Cushing. He said dealing lobsters isn’t all it’s cracked (haha) up to be. Lobsters don’t come cheap, and this past winter they got up to $12 a pound.

At one point this winter Sammy had almost $500,000 out on credit. That’s a lot of lobsters, even at $12/lb.

I’ve always preferred soft-shell. As I said above, they’re easier to crack, and the meat is sweeter. It’s also more tender. Hard-shells are more packed full of meat, and you don’t have a lot of salty, lobster-y smelling water being splattered all over yourself and your neighbor, but still.

I rarely eat lobsters anywhere other than at the cottage. Why would I when I can simply wander down the dirt road, past the Wissemanns and Rockwells (who have also been there for 100 years) to Sammy’s wharf, where they come fresh out of the ocean from whence they came.

I said “wander down the dirt road,” because it sounded good. I lied. I usually drive, even though it’s like a 10-minute walk, at most. In my defense I do have to lug the container full of lobsters back to the cottage. Plus I’m old.

Just FYI, for all you landubbers, call them ‘soft-shells’ and 'hard-shells’ when you go down to a wharf to get them. You don’t have to use the word, ‘lobster.’ They’ll know. And they may not guess you’re from away unless you’re wearing fancy clothes and pronouncing your r’s. Say ‘lobsta’ if you have to use the word.

Anyway.

I’ve been eating lobsters at the cottage since I was a kid. As far as I’m concerned the only way to eat them is boiled, with melted butter. Not that “drawn butter” some restaurants serve, telling you it’s better than plain old melted butter. They’re lying. They might as well serve you canola oil.

When there’s leftover lobsters, I have a hard time deciding whether to make lobster rolls or stew. I love them both. I’m sure there’s something to be said for lobster mac & cheese, lobster Reubens, lobster whatever, but if you’re going to have lobster, have a boiled lobster, a roll or stew.

I think the only reason people have lobster mac & cheese is to brag about it when they go back to Minnesota or Ohio. “Oh! I had the most fabulous lobster mac & cheese when I was in Maine! OMG it was absolutely ridiculous!” Those landlubbers won’t know the difference. I’m kidding. Please don’t take offense :-).

Some joker tried to market lobster ice cream a few years ago. Please.

Okay here’s a recipe for boiled lobster with melted butter. Go buy two (pound and a quarter) soft-shells. Get a big pot of water, with a handful of salt thrown in, boiling. Remove the elastic bands (please) and throw the lobsters in head first. Put the lid on the pot, cover your ears, and run outside so you don’t hear them thrashing about.

After a few minutes, when they’re dead, go back in and turn down the heat so you don’t have the smelly water splattering all over the kitchen. When the water comes back to a boil, cook for 20 minutes. Melt some butter and pour it into a pretty, cute little bowl. The bowl is very important.

Pour yourself a glass of chardonnay or pinot noir. Or some sauvignon blanc or red zin. Or a beautiful, pale pink rose. I don’t care what color the wine is. Cooked lobsters are red on the outside and white on the inside. Red and white make pink.

Best case scenario: Get a bottle of Big Claw wine. My friend Timmy (you can call him Tim) Wissemann and his friend Steve Melchiskey invented it, and Tim’s mother, Nancy Wissemann Widrig, painted the claw for the label. Nancy is a great painter, and an even greater family friend.

The Wissemanns have the cottage, “Cheerio” next door in Cushing. Many of our lobster feeds over the years have been Thayer/Wissemann ones.

Okay. Now, sit down, preferably outside at a picnic table, and start cracking, eating and drinking. And talking, and laughing.

I’m sitting here right now craving a lobster, and a lobster roll, and a bowlful of lobster stew. Ugh. There’s no way in hell I’m going to Hannaford, or even Pinkham’s to get a couple lobsters. The sky is getting black and I’m hearing weather reports of possible tornadoes. Plus I’m wearing faded old leggings, with holes, and I have no makeup on.

And I just finished a manhattan :-).

And anyway, there will be a lobster feed in Cushing in a couple weeks, thanks to Sammy. The Wissemanns, cousin Rich, Aunt Ida and Uncle GC, hopefully a Rockwell or three, my sibs, and a bunch of other relatives and close friends will be there. It’s in honor of my mother. It will be a happy, and sad, occasion, and probably fodder for the last chapter in the memoirs.

See ya next week.