|Our dinner... guest.|
We also had some crab legs:
|Just look at the spikes all over this thing! It was like trying to wrestle a thorny rose bush!|
Lobster and crab fall into those categories of food I like to think of as "Exactly HOW hungry did a person have to be to see one of these things and say to themselves 'Yup, I'm totally gonna eat that!' and actually do it?"
I remember the first time I ever had a whole lobster. We had just flown out to Vermont to start trying to find a place to live. My daughter was about a year and a half old (this meant that going to restaurants was really about getting a small bowl of shredded cheese and her tossing it like confetti rather than eating - we tipped really, really well. *ahem*) We were told by the company to go out and have a nice lobster dinner on them, a "Welcome to New England" sort of thing.
We went to a fancy restaurant (which made me nervous, what with the whole confetti-cheese thing) and we ordered lobster. In my mind, I thought that they would just bring the dinner out to the table and I would have my very first lobster experience that went beyond lobster bisque. That little fantasy was dashed when the waiter smiled and said "Excellent, please follow me."
Uh, am I supposed to cook it myself?
We followed the waiter to a huge aquarium area that housed giant tanks full of fish and lobster. With dawning horror, I realized I was supposed to choose which one I put to death. I was told that the claws were color-coded with the bands around them by weight, and that some unlucky employee was to fetch the one I thought I wanted to eat.
My daughter was fascinated with the scrambling creatures in the tank, and looked at them with wide eyes. I was also looking at them with wide (bulging, guilty, horrified) eyes as well. Right next to my husband, who was in much of the same state. I stood there for at least 20 minutes, and the waiter had gone and come back several times. Finally, I looked at the waiter and said "I can't do it."
I thought the waiter was going to split the seam on his shirt laughing at us. But hey, when you grow up land locked and the only crustaceans you have ever had before were crab legs on special occasions (did anyone else grow up with those Sea Galley commercials of men dancing in crab leg costumes?), doing the whole lobster "thing" isn't something that I was used to. I just couldn't pluck one of the death row lobsters and throw the switch, so to speak. The waiter finally offered to just pick a pound lobster for each of us, and we quickly agreed and went back to our table.
Of course, now my fancy dinner was riddled with guilt, and no amount of cheese tossing was going to make me feel better. It only went downhill from there, however. In my head, they were just going to bring out the claws and tail, and it was going to look like every other fancy lobster dinner I had ever seen a picture of. No, no... apparently a fancy lobster dinner means you need to stare your victim in the... orbs.
They sat that sucker in front of me, facing me, and it had antennae that were probably the longest I have ever seen on any lobster before or since. They stuck straight up in the air, and when anyone bumped the table, the antennae wobbled back and forth like the lobster was still alive. It's eyes were accusing - dark, blackened pools of accusation! I was speechless. No amount of crab leg consumption had ever prepared me for coming face to face with a newly cooked lobster. Not even the crab festival I attended a year before in Maryland where I watched a friend consume a soft shell crab sandwich (this looks like someone eating a giant spider with legs hanging out of the bun. It's beyond disturbing!) Other diners were highly amused with me, and I could see them watching from the corner of my eyes. My husband wasn't faring much better, eating around the lobster and trying to get up the nerve to face it... right up until he noticed the green ooze coming out the top. He asked the waiter what it was and was informed it was a delicacy, or "the best part!"
I think I turned green myself.
In the end, I draped my fancy linen napkin over it, and ate the rice on the side. Everyone in the restaurant was looking at me like I was crazy. Finally, the waiter caught sight of my impromptu tent and offered to have the lobster tail and claws brought to me in a more presentable way. It was said to me in a tone that stated that they only really did this for children, but since I was acting like a child, they'd do that for me. I think I flunked Fancy Dinner 101.
All I could think in my head was that Pizza Hut would have been so much easier (when you are broke and just starting a family, Pizza Hut is fine dining. Anything that allows you to sit down rather than go through a drive-thru is fine dining.) Once the tail and claws showed back up, it was easier and I did eat it. However, I felt guilty the entire time!
It took several years before I tried again. Locally, the stores run specials now and again on Lobster. A huge sale was going on where whole lobsters were only $2.99, freshly steamed by the store (in other words, I didn't have to kill them myself.) My whole family got several because my mother wanted to try lobster, and it turned into a giant event in their kitchen. Shell flying, things sticking to the ceiling, everyone avoiding looking at the actual lobsters' faces... In the end, my mother said "That wasn't how I imagined it." Yeah, me either!
Last night, my husband went to the store and they were having another big sale. He brought home lobster and crab legs, and explained that he just wanted us to try it again. My kids wouldn't go near it, and observed it more like a science project. I did better with it this time, but it's still not my favorite thing. The crab legs, however, now those I have always loved. But again - I haven't had them with the creature staring back at me, so who knows how that would go.
In the end, I guess I'm just not fancy. I think I'll stick with my lobster bisque (when I'm having a treat, obviously there is no way to make a healthy version of this) and crab legs. Have you had whole lobsters?