|August 17, 2002|
Three pounds of lobster. That's essentially what we just consumed. Okay, probably not the whole three pounds -- I'm sure the shell counts for like 2 oz of the entire beast. But man, I'm fantastically stuffed from eating what is, for all intents and purposes, a bug. Yes, it's an incredibly succulent bug from the sea, but it is STILL a bug, as my little sister would tell you while she dramatically gagged at anything that touched crab, lobster, shrimp or other previously living foods that have "crust" in their name. I once tricked her and fed her a curry crab Rangoon from Lotus, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Minneapolis. I swore up and down I was giving her one that didn't have crab meat mixed in with the cream cheese. I guess I wanted to prove to her that she couldn't taste the crab meat. Anyway, my mom wouldn't let me get away with it, and Nessa promptly spit out her mouthful and got really mad at me. She still doesn't trust me where food is concerned.
Mathra's parents had their trip to Maine all doped out. They planned to visit with us in Cambridge at the beginning and end of it, spending the intervening week scouting around Penobscot Bay and eating at some of the restaurants R.W. Apple recommended. Bill and Judy arrived at our place on a Saturday evening, bearing a peck of fresh fuzzy peaches and a pint of blackberries so ready to eat their little bumps burst when you handled them incautiously. Both were just plucked from a Maryland orchard and driven up to us in a BMW. That's some privileged fruit. Since we had been loudly and longly lamenting the fact that we had not eaten of the flesh of a good peach since living in Boston, we were floored by this. That wasn't all. Concealed in a plastic baggie labeled "Picked Friday" in Judy's hand was a shining pile of Sungold cherry tomatoes. Bill even produced a second smaller bag of the Sungolds, which, as he explained, had been picked earlier from their garden and were ready to eat right away. They had snacked on the little nuggets of sunshine all their way up from Washington, D.C. The "Picked Friday" bag wouldn't be fully ready to eat for another two to three days. We popped a few of the ready-to-eats in our mouths, and man, did they taste just like summer! You can't get that taste up here, you just can't. That wasn't even the extent of the produce haul. Next, Bill pulled out a third baggie containing three hot peppers (picked especially for Mathra's phaal palette) and a fourth of two Roma tomatoes -- all from their extremely bountiful Springfield, VA garden. The Romas were two perfect blood-red eggs, sitting in the cup of my hand. I made them into a sauce for ravioli later that week. They were delicious, wonderfully firm and tasting of the summer-baked earth.
The mammoth lobsters were another matter entirely. Later in the week, when Bill and Judy called us from their B&B in Lincolnville to tell us what time they'd be back in town the next day, they told us they'd be bringing us two lobsters, fully cooked and ready to eat. We knew they were planning to bring their own pair of lobsters back to Virginia -- they had a cooler specially packed with ice to be their final resting place -- but we certainly didn't expect to be getting crustaceans of our very own. But as it turned out, the lobster man didn't have the usual sizes of 1 lb, 1.25 lb, or 1.5 lbs. In fact, there wasn't anything under two pounds, and even the two-pounders were really more like three pounds. Bill gave us some extra plastic bags and explained that the shell of the claws were immensely thick, so the usual cracker just wasn't going to cut it. We were going to have to use a hammer.
Around five, we lugged our monster out of the bar fridge, put it on the chopping-block island, and stared at it. Then I had a brainwave. I hauled the thing into the bedroom, dripping juices, where Hunca Munca was stretched out on the bed. I prodded him with a claw, hoping he'd freak out and get a puffy tail. All he did was open one eye and sniff at it before rolling over and going back to sleep. So much for feline hysterics. Mathra and I took turns smashing at each claw -- safely double-wrapped in double baggies, because the first baggie split after one hit -- before attacking the tail. That was easier. As Bill advised, Mathra cut the tendons and pulled the whole thing out in one piece. Including a lot of greeny-gray mulchy stuff and a red bit: the tomalley and roe. Okay, I know I have to get used to this stuff since I'm going to culinary school, but "EEECH" until I get my toque. We got rid of that stuff, as it's fairly inedible -- unless you're Julia and cook it all up in a nice little broth with buttered cognac but I'm just not there yet -- and brought the succulent bits to our table spread with a plastic sheet (also provided by Mathra's parents via Merrifield Garden Center). My culinary contribution to this feast was a ginger-scallion dipping sauce I mixed up in advance and two lemons. The lobster was amazing, and with the hammer smashes made ahead of time, we had no problem getting all the meat out of every nook and cranny. Bill's suggestion to use chopsticks to get the meat out of the smaller legs was a good one -- it worked really well. It wasn't until the second glass of a Louis Latour white Burgundy (perfectly matched with lobster -- thank you, Falstaff!) that Poppadum took interest in what we were eating. She perched on the very edge of the table and watched us with her head cocked. I tossed her a tiny piece of tail meat. She didn't as much eat it as she did play with it until it fell off the table, which allowed her to then bat it under a couch. What a keckler kat. Now we're only going to find it when it starts to smell.