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Lobster Feed

Our culture labels people by their jobs, marital status, and level of procreation. Is this the best way to judge a person's value?

This week I've been introducing my student to the joy and beauty of Tanglewood. We had a lesson in a field, listened to rehearsals, walked the formal gardens, got souvenirs in the Glass House, met people I knew from my summers as a fellow, and reveled in the magic and the music. Summer festivals were the mainstay of my identity in my teens and twenties. Public elementary schools and college music departments have defined my thirties.

Schools, concert halls, offices, hospitals, and any other workspace do not define us. It is our ability to take joy from them that does. In homage to this philosophy I offer here an essay I wrote when I first moved to Maine from Texas. It describes the way to have a true, Maine Lobster Feed. Enjoy!

Lobster Feed

This weekend I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the most sublime
activities of Yankee life. The New England lobster feed. Now this is not a
"lobster bake" or a "lobster picnic". The word "feed" is of tremendous
importance. It is not a delicate event. It is an eating event with a
trough like feel to it. Butter is melted by the pound, not by the stick.
Corn is counted by the bag, not by the ear. Napkins are used only on elbows
to catch drippings which have slid down. Even then the drippings are caught
to stop them from falling on the ground and attracting insects, not to
protect clothing.

My friend, Maryanne won 20 pounds of lobster and had to redeem her coupons
before Labor Day. That was our excuse. It was divine.

How does one have an authentic "lobster feed"?

First you soak the corn in the lake. Don't bother husking it, just toss the
bag in the lake and tie it to the dock.

You have to have some chicken marinating for those unfortunate individuals
who do not like lobster. (I know it's sad that they don't know the pleasure
of a good lobster but without them there would never be enough lobster for
the rest of us)

Have your lobster ready for the pot. Some Mainers have a very complicated
ritual to actually soothe the lobster. They gently caress its shell, hold
it on its back and sing to it in baby-talk. This evidently makes the meat
more tender. I enjoyed this feed in Aroostook County and it is entirely possible that the Downeast rituals of lobster-soothing are different. This was a Grand Lake lobster feed and I am sure that the Ellsworth or Boothbay feeds vary in their ritual.

Fire up the grill and boil the water at the same time. The water must be
heavily salted. I understand that at the coast sea water is used and at times there is an elaborate method of steaming the lobsters in its native seaweed. In the County we just boil it in lake water with lots of salt. You must use a real Maine lobster pot. These pots are large enough
to bathe your elderly relatives, keep the local moose well hydrated and serve
as a community pool so they are practical to Mainers. All objects owned by
yankees must be good for at least 4 purposes.

Don't let the lobsters know what's happening. Just put them in quickly and
head-first. Have "Man-B" out at the grill tending to the corn and chicken.
He will lay the ears of corn on the grill to steam inside
the husks. The chicken is not to be mixed with the corn so it's good to
have a big grill. In about 20 minutes everything is done!

The feed is very orderly in its set up. There is beer (local microbrews, not for yuppie trendiness but for loyalty to the community)
and iced tea, (not mixed together), every person is responsible to get his
or her cooking specialty to the table at the appointed time (when the
lobsters are ready). The tearing and digging commences. It is a sign of
true Yankeedom to not need a cracker to get into the claws. I was shown the
"secret recesses" of the lobster "under the hood" where the most tender
parts of flesh can be found. In order to learn where these places are you
must have a Mainer show you. While he/she shows you he/she will spin tales
of Yankee-urban legend about "The poor tourist I saw try to eat a
lobster in Boston". I've heard this story 3 times already from people who
"saw it themselves" and it is just hysterical. It involves someone who is
not a Yankee going into a restaurant and ordering a lobster dinner. When it
arrives they just look at it. They poke at it a bit and become perplexed when the shells refuse to soften. Finally they leave the restaurant and the yankee
telling the story swoops in (yankees NEVER waste anything) and eats the
abandoned delicacy.

After your lobster feed save the left-over butter. You will need it to make “mock-lobster” later. To do this, simply take a white fish such as Pollack or Cod and bake it in the lobster butter. It tastes just like sweet, tender lobster. It extends the joy of the feed and the memories of perfect Maine summer evenings.


Anonymous said…
good points and the details are more precise than elsewhere, thanks.

- Murk

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