Once Billi discovered I was the culprit, she silently branded me a lobster-eating neophyte, a beginner, a rookie who didn't know how to tackle this pre-historic-looking, boiled-to-death monster that sat on my paper plate. I did nothing during our feast to convince her of a time during my growing up years in New England when I attacked and ate a Maine lobster with gusto, like a pro, but I admit it has been some time since I rolled up my sleeves, put on my bib, and dismembered a marine crustacean. Since our lobster feast was the centerpiece of our special one-day reunion among five very good friends from high school, I didn't want to embarrass myself, but I guess I kind of did.
With apologies to Billi, whose father was a lobsterman, by the way, I retrieved the pristine knuckles from the bucket where I had tossed them because I didn't think they were worth the effort. But now that I had them back on my plate, I started with the lobster cracker first, but moved on to using the small pick fork which did most of the work, which wasn't easy. To be honest I only got a few bits of flaky meat out of the knuckles, so when no one was looking, I dropped the bits in my bowl of melted butter, and figured I could fish them out at the end. I watched with envy as my friends slurped and sucked the juice and small bits of meat from every part of the lobster, including the knuckles, but I didn't know quite how to begin.
Next I attacked the tail, which everyone knows holds the glory and is the tastiest part. I twisted the tail off, carefully removed the three or four fan-like tabs and, just like my mother taught me, I pushed my fattest finger into the now-opened end, and voila, the chunky tail meat slipped out the other end in one nice big piece. Just as I started to dip the lobster meat into my melted butter and take my first bite, Billi grabbed the tail from my hand and spoke to me sternly once again. "Pam, you don't eat that stuff," she said, as she tore away the red fleshy-like substance covering part of the tail. Once she removed the red sheath, she deveined the lobster with her bare hands, like one might devein a shrimp, something I had never seen performed on a lobster before, but I watched and prayed that after she finished the job, there would be something left for me to eat. "Here," she said, as she handed me the macerated tail, "but remember, never eat the red stuff." Up until now my other Maine born and bred girlfriends, sat around the table engrossed in their own lobsters, but as Billi's comments grew louder, they turned to me and almost as if they had practiced in unison proclaimed We never eat the red stuff -- whatever it is. What is it anyway? Eyeballs? digested food? female eggs? the bladder? No one was really sure, but they all agreed that you don't eat the red stuff. By the time Billi finished cleaning my lobster tail, it looked pretty small, but after I dipped it in melted butter, and took my first bite, it didn't matter. I was in bliss.
After I finished the tail and wiped the melted butter from my chin, I started to pry open the body of the lobster, and that's when I heard Billi's stern voice once again. "No, No, No. That's not the way. This is how you do it." Using both thumbs, Billi broke open the carapace of the lobster and exposed a display of white flaky innards, which can be tasty, but, like the lobster knuckles, it seemed like too much work to separate the meat from the cartilage. Actually, I hoped to find the tasty green stuff, the squishy paste that is called tomalley, and I did. I found lots of the delicious green stuff. I have never wanted to ask anyone what tomalley really was for fear that it could be something horrible, like digested food, but when I looked up the spelling, I learned the awful truth. Tomalley functions as both the liver and the pancreas of the lobster. Now I think eating the liver and pancreas of a lobster sounds terrible, just as terrible as eating digested food, but I have always loved the green stuff. Now that I have read the details on Wikipedia, I'm not sure whether I will eat tomalley ever again because I learned that tomalley often contains toxins and other pollutants, which possibly can give off a number of negative health effects if eaten in large concentrations. Fortunately since I only eat a whole lobster once every couple of years, I doubt I have to worry, but on that special day with my girlfriends in Kennebunkport, I ate two whole Maine lobsters and lots of tomalley.
After the table was cleared, Billi placed a large home-made blueberry pie and a bowl of vanilla ice cream on the table for us to share. Mainiacs, as people from Maine are called, know that after consuming a lobster (or two), the tastiest dessert is a piece (or two) of fresh blueberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Those tiny Maine blueberries are superior to blueberries grown anywhere else on the planet.
The lobster feast was the edible portion of a very special day-long reunion among five good friends who graduated together in 1961from Gould Academy, a boarding school in Bethel, Maine. The non-edible portions of our day were non-stop talking, considerable introspection, some true confessions, and just a tiny bit of good clean gossip.
|L-R LOUISE, BILLI, SANDY, PAM AND HILDA|
The Adventure continues...............