I have had a love affair with lobster ever since I can remember. Literally, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of me tackling a lobster.
My mom and dad divorced when I was very young. My dad often worked three jobs to keep our finances together, while my mom worked endless hours at Valle’s Steak House, on River Rd in Andover, MA. Due to their often-conflicting work schedules, child care was frequently a problem. My paternal grandmother – my ‘nana’ – typically stepped into the breach to fulfill the role of babysitter / surrogate parent, but she wasn’t always able to do so.
When I was seven years old, give or take, my parents were faced with a dilemma. It was school (April) vacation week… both of them were working and my grandmother was not available. My mom made arrangements to bring us to Valle’s throughout her work day. There was an employee lounge in the basement, and we were allowed to bring books, games, toys and anything else that would entertain a 7- and 6-year old for five to six hours.
It wasn’t an easy prescription. My brother and I were both hyperactive, and we already had a mythic sibling rivalry (that has lasted our entire lives). We fought. Constantly. To this day I wonder how the down- and up-stairs neighbors in our three-tenement (the Landrys and the Mistals) were able to tolerate the two rambunctious ruffians on the second floor!
How were we going to behave being left (relatively) unsupervised in the basement of a restaurant for several hours?
My mom made us a deal: behave during the week and get the lunch of your choice on Friday![Some people might call it bribery…I call it insightful negotiation! (Is it any wonder I became a professional negotiator later in life? lol)]
Valle’s Friday lunch specials had something for both of us…significant enough to serve as an enticement (or behavioral modifier, if you prefer) for two young rapscallions. My brother has always loved (full bellied) fried clams (not the clam strips)… and they were on the Friday specials menu. Youngest son…check!
As for me? Valle’s had a twin-lobster special on Friday: one boiled and one baked-stuffed lobster. In my opinion, aside from baseball and the Red Sox (which I had discovered the previous summer), there was nothing so grand as a lobster!
But, two?!?!? (And one of them, baked-stuffed?!?)
My mom worked at Valle’s for couple of years… but while she was working there I was prepared to give ANYTHING to be there on a Friday!
“Jeff, do you want to go to your grandmother’s today and play in her yard?”
“Can’t I go to Valle’s with you?”
“Don’t you want to go see your Nana?”
“Umm, no…I want lobsters!”
My poor Nana…traded in for a pair of pound-and-a-quarters!
I adore lobster. I became quite proficient at tearing those little red suckers apart by the time I was nine or ten years old. Or should I say, VERY proficient. I attended college on the Maine coast (Bowdoin College, in Brunswick) and ate them whenever I could afford to do so. When I attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, my passion for lobster was set aside for a brief period while I explored the Baltimorean veneration of Chesapeake blue crab…but steamed crab (with Old Bay seasoning) never approached my passion for lobster.
I have played host to many visitors from around the country, and when they come to my home they can expect to dine on lobster at some point during their trip. Or if we have a neighborhood cookout on Memorial Day, I bring steamed lobsters to the festivities on occasion (thanks to Market Basket, I don’t even have to cook them!).
But nothing makes me as happy as when I can make lobster for my mom! She gave me the gift of lobster when I was little more than a toddler…and now I feel blessed to be able to return the favor.
You see, my mom moved to Canada (near Detroit) many years ago. Fresh lobster is not always available in her neck of the woods – and, when it is, it is often very expensive. So she often foregoes the delicacy…
Because she knows she will get some soon enough.
We see each other a couple of times each year, and more often than not our visits involve her (and my stepfather, Bo) driving to New Hampshire. They are both retired, and my wife and I have only so much vacation available to us… so, Mom and Bo make the trip. Their sojourn eastward lasts some 14 hours +/-…so, they deserve a reward.
During a typical 8-10 day trip we have lobster on at least two or three occasions. My stepfather doesn’t like to have to de-shell the meat, so I usually make lazy-man’s lobster (with my Ritz-cracker-and-crabmeat stuffing) and lobster salad (for lobster rolls) and put together a full-blown clam bake during those visits.
A few years ago, Mom’s visit coincided with a week-long special at Market Basket: lobsters were $3.99/lb and we had lobster five times during her visit (Bo was visiting family in Germany). Eventually, my mom professed to being lobstered-out. Lobstered-out?!?!
Who the heck could ever get tired of lobster???
Not this guy!!
I shopped at MB the other day…and lobster was $11.99/lb. I LOVE lobster, but not that much. So I sit here this morning, peering out at the sunshine and listening as the snow melt drips from my rooftop. I’m thinking of my buddy, George, who owns a lobster boat in Seabrook, NH, and I am wanting to jump on his boat with him some morning when he goes out to haul in his traps.
I am wanting summer to get here. FAST! I want to have a lobster bake on Memorial Day weekend.
I have an itch that needs to be scratched…