Consider the lobster

For the lobster considers youLiving in Boston, I feel like a complete loser at fancy restaurants because I don’t like seafood. “But the seafood in Boston is great!” says everyone. I know that, but I still don’t like it. I do eat some kinds of fish (I had a phase in childhood where I ate a lot of Orange Roughy, but I think I just liked the name), but only recently have I started liking shrimp and fried calamari. I studied in Spain in 2008 and was forced to eat lots of things that were completely unrecognizable because I was afraid of offending my host mother or the professor who took us out to a very fancy and very authentic seafood place. I tore apart a fish that had eyeballs and ripped meat off the spine with my fork. And to think only a few short years ago, I went to Red Lobster and ordered the Aztec Chicken. (Judge if you want, but the Aztec Chicken is really good.)

I refuse to eat scallops or oysters. No, I don’t care if they’re fresh. No, I don’t care if they’re not that fishy. Once, my family and I were vacationing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in a beach house right on the ocean. Someone must have waded out and scooped up the oysters by hand, because everyone was raving about how fresh they were and the oyster feast we were going to have. At that time, I may have been going through my ham-sandwiches-only-for-lunch phase. I did not want to eat the oysters. The shells are pretty, but the meat looks like something someone sneezed.

It tastes that way too. Texture is important to me; I like the taste of tomatoes and onions, but can’t stand that crunchy-slimy texture. The oyster felt like I was munching on a small animal’s brain. Chewing through the membrane until all these little bits and pieces came flooding out and my eyes were watering and I tried not to gag.

My mother visited me last week, and she is a seafood connoisseur. Two of her favorites are Mahi-Mahi and lobster. I have trouble getting past the strange chewiness of lobster, and I think the main reason people get it is so that they have an excuse to dip things in a gigantic bowl of melted butter. But, we were in Boston and I wanted to treat her to a nice dinner.

My mom is dealing with a pinched nerve in her hip, so we went into Turner Fisheries, a restaurant that’s part of the Turner Hotel (I realized later), and was a short walk away. We went in and were impressed at the gigantic price tags and oversized lamps and blast air conditioners. My mom decided on the lobster and I decided on the salmon. It turns out that this was the kind of place that charges exorbitant prices and gives you NO SIDE DISHES. You think they could’ve tossed some veggies in a frying pan for us or scooped some mashed potatoes out of a vat.

lobster cracker

Lobster cracker

The food came, and my mom set to dismembering the lobster while I ate my fish like a civilized person. Yet another reason why I can’t eat lobsters—they look too alive with their eyes and claws still there, and you have to break their arms and legs off and pull the meat out. I don’t think that sort of thing is really appetizing. Unless you’re a serial killer.

My salmon was underwhelming. The best part about it was the pomegranate sauce, because I really like pomegranates, but I would also really have liked some mashed potatoes. My mom loved the lobster, but it came at a price. (Other than the actual price, I mean.) The tool she was using to crack open the lobster’s shell wasn’t really made for lobster—I’m pretty sure it was a nutcracker—so she wasn’t able to crack some of the shell. She called the waiter over to ask for a new cracker, and instead of getting one for her, he took the cracker and the lobster out of her hands and tore it apart.

Not a lobster cracker

Not a lobster cracker

Tore it apart. I may be imagining this, but I was so in shock I swear I saw him set down the cracker and just go at it with his bare hands. He tore the meat out with his naked fingers and set it on my mom’s plate. When he was done, he calmly set the carcass back down on the table. “There you go,” he said. His fingers were dripping. He shook them off and left, like this was all part of the normal lobster experience.

In the end, I think we would have been happier with some chain-restaurant-style coconut shrimp or Aztec Chicken. At least we wouldn’t have seen anyone touch it.

(Many of you may have realized that I’ve borrowed my title this week from David Foster Wallace. Read his outstanding essay of the same name here.)

7 Responses to “Consider the lobster”
  1. I read “Consider the Lobster” for the first time last week, my (so far) only exposure to DFW; and so was intrigued title here.

    Shellfish on the whole don’t get a very good deal in the despatching department; boiled, or steamed or shucked alive. And I think fish have it worse, and maybe industrially raised swine have it worse than them. Nasty business.

    Your lobster cracker photos remind me of Magritte.

  2. AVGW says:

    For this reason, I am so happy most meats are served completely dismembered and looking as unlike the animal they came from as possible.

    If they weren’t, I’d have to go back to being a vegetarian, which, while “good”, wasn’t GOOD.

  3. Jess says:

    I’m completely appalled by the waiter taking the meat out with his bare hands. That is poor form, no matter how difficult the lobster is! Did he even ask first?

    You should try crab sometime. It has a very similar taste to lobster, but is much more flaky and soft rather than chewy. It can be a bit of a process and sometimes a pain, but if you go to a more casual beach place, it can be a lot of fun after a few drinks .

  4. Jess, I’ll venture that is Jill doesn’t like lobsters, scallops, or oysters, then the delight that is crab will be lost on her as well.

    Jill, bad luck for you then, but no worries. Just push ’em over here — oysters, lobsters, crabs, the whole lot — and I’ll get rid of them for you. And coudl you pass the beer? I’m parched!

  5. Jill says:

    I’ll try most things once. Except for scallops. But you may have to fight me for that beer.

  6. Blue claw crabs are excellent, both to catch and to eat. This Summer they made a roaring comeback in the brackish lake near our house, and offered many hours of amusement with my daughters and fine eating as well.


    Scallops really are the queen of all shellfish. Whether it’s bay scallops from the lagoons of Baja California, or sea scallops from the deep cold water off Nova Scotia, there is nothing that comes from the sea that is quite as wonderful.

    So keep the beer and push the scallops on down!

  7. cd says:

    Eating lobster is a total sensory experience as Jill so aptly describes. Lobster leaves bits of the shell in the hands of the one who cracks open the shell. These particles fester for days so that the sensory experience (pain) continues for days. Mr.let-me rescue-the damsel-in-distress-waiter got pain while Ms. K got the best sensory experience (taste)!*
    *Butter cancels any germs Mr. Waiter may have had on his hands.!!

%d bloggers like this: