From the Blog

Lobster Is Creepy

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So. I’m not the most adventurous eater. I’m getting to be more of an adult about food all the time, but I’m working from a legacy of picky eating. My mom was a great cook growing up, but New England isn’t really a garden of exotic culinary delights. The “ethnic” restaurants nearby were Italian and greasy Chinese. Oh, and pizza. I don’t think I tried any sort of Mexican food until I was in my 20s. Everyone for miles around was excited when they finally put a Taco Bell in on John Fitch Highway.

I know New England has seafood and clams and lobster and stuff. I am just starting to tolerate clams and lobster. In general, I usually poke at shellfish, and I sort of like lobster. But I have at least one burning childhood memory etched in my brain that still makes me hesitate about eating lobster. Lobster is still a little creepy.

We did a lot of camping when I was a kid. My dad, mom, little sister and I would pile into our old Saab wagonback and hitch up the tent trailer. We camped in New Hampshire near North Conway, at Hermits Island in Maine where the mosquitoes are as big as humming birds, and other places in New England. We even went on a road trip all the up to Nova Scotia once, that my sister and I pretty much ruined because she was three and I was eight, and all we did was fight in the back seat. She was a pain in the ass back then.

On one of these many camping trips, we stopped at a roadside clam shack with outdoor seating. These are fairly common in coastal towns back east. They serve clam strips and lobster rolls and fried seafood. My sister and I were young and we got chicken strips. My parents love lobster and they got the real deal, giant, whole steamed lobsters with melted butter, bibs and nutcrackers to pry the things open. It was very serious.

We sat outdoors at a picnic table. As I said, I was young, and I didn’t really comprehend the appeal of these glowing red bug creatures my parents were eating. And I was horrified with the vague knowledge that they boiled these things alive. I suppose I was glad they were dead, with those big claws and all, but I had heard they scream when you put them in the water. This is all disturbing, nightmarish shit when you’re a kid.

It seemed like a lot of work to actually eat them. But my parents relished every triumphant moment of working for their food. They’d hold up big pieces of claw or tail meat like treasure and wiggle them at us before they popped it into their mouths. My sister and I shared glances as we ate our chicken fingers. We were witnessing our parents losing their minds.

I could have maybe learned to enjoy eating lobster, but I was a sensitive kid, and I couldn’t abide all the pageantry and spectacle. It was also a rather noisy affair to eat lobster. My parents made quite a bit of noise. Lots of moaning and groaning and lips smacking and “Oh! This is soooo gooood!” And my parents made eyeballs at each other over the picnic table.

I came to realize later, in the dim haze of old memories, these were sort of like sex noises. My parents were eating lobster, their fingers all full of fish guts and melted butter, and making sex noises at the dinner table.

I’m now an adult. I bet if I had some lobster now, I’d probably like it. But I have a lot to work through first.


  1. I have no doubt lobster meat is great, but wow, I can’t get past the barbaric ripping apart of something with eyes.

  2. Yeah, that’s about right. I wonder why you don’t like mushrooms… maybe another story someday from childhood memories.

  3. I do have a mushroom story. It involves a stomach pump. I was too young to remember, so I’ll have to hear it again from mum. I’ll share that one some day.

  4. You gotta go for the lobster roll sandwich instead of the full beast. Let someone else do the work.

  5. First time I had lobster I was nine and it was a Thanksgiving family reunion for my stepmom’s fam. One of her brother’s neighbors had given him their extras for free. Giant table laid out with ham, turkey & lobster. My dad, having been beering it up, I assume to put up with all the in-laws, told me I could have some. My stepmom warned him that I was going to like it and he said, “So what? It’s free!” (He may have actually slurred that.) Fast forward to the end of the week when we all went out to a fancy-schmancy restaurant. As we drove over my dad was telling us we could order whatever we wanted because it was a special night. I asked if the restaurant would have lobster and my stepmom just laughed & laughed & laughed.

    It became a family tradition to go out on birthdays and the birthday person got to pick the restaurant. We always went for seafood on my birthdays from then on. Lobster, lobster, lobster! At some point in high school he and I went out for my birthday without my brother or stepmom. When I ordered lobster the waitress looked at him to see if it was ok (annoying). He told her that if I condemned it to death myself then I could have it. So out she brings a lobster on a tray, banded claws & all, dripping. I just looked at the little sea spider and told him, “Steam nice!” As if I’d suddenly forget how nummy they are and get squeamish in front of my dad!

    Anyway, steer clear of the Australian Rock lobster if you’re going to try lobster. They might as well be crab; not that that’s bad, but it’s not a live Maine lobster.

  6. Thanks for the story, KYouell. It’s funny how those early stories shape our lives later. I may take Jon’s advice above and let someone let do the hacking for me.

  7. My first lobster was a bit traumatic. I had no idea what I was doing and opened the stomach first. After seeing all that nasty pea green stuff I no longer wanted to eat the lobster, but I had to because my family had just spent SO MUCH MONEY on my birthday dinner.

    Fast forward to just a few years ago and my mom and I are in Maine with friends from Finland. Mom and I are joyously ripping into our first lobster of the season, and the Finns are all staring at us as if we were moaning, groaning and slurping up boiled rat, because to them that’s the equivalent of lobster. I finally made it up to the horrified five-year-old in our party by naming my lobster’s head Fred and making him talk and joke with her. Suddenly she was fine, laughing and wanted to play with “Fred” herself. Ah kids and their ability to adapt so quickly, well sometimes anyway.

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