02 August, 2009
It's once a year: lobsters come from David Thomas Lobsters in Islesford, Maine, our beloved haunt of years ago, before we moved to London. We are loyal to David. We wait all year, knowing that we could buy lobsters from many other sources (years ago when John and I were newlyweds in London, each Saturday night we bought a lobster and ate it with a baguette and garlicky mayonnaise). Somehow though, lately, we just DON'T buy a lobster any other way or place or day, except for an August day in Connecticut, from our favorite haunt in Maine. And so it was last night.
They arrive, in their cardboard Fedex box, and I open it up with a knife, ever so carefully as as not to injure anybody inside. I lift up the styrofoam lid, and there they are: four wildly gesticulating dark-red lobsters with their claws rubber-banded against their maurauding impulses. A huge tinny stockpot on the stove with about two inches of boiling water, a pot lid on the bottom so no lobster gets stuck to the pot, and in they go, face down, lid DOWN with a giant can of chicken stock on top so their flailing (and there is flailing, I'm sorry to say) does not dislodge the lid. Twelve minutes, done. Lid off, they come out onto a platter with some garnishing parsley to hide the blatant carnage. And with them:
(serves 4 with steamed lobsters and baguette slices to dip)
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
loads of fresh black pepper
Simply mix all and let sit for a couple of hours, covered, in the fridge. Serve with the lobster, plenty of bread, and a platter of thick-sliced tomatoes dotted with pesto. Summer on a plate, full stop.
I think so much of our Maine sojourns with this meal: we used to rent an enormous boat-like stone house perched on the rocky outpost of a tiny island north of Bar Harbor. This house possessed a number of unforgettable elements: a huge wrapping porch overlooking the sea (I always felt it might simply tumble off in a storm and be lost in the enveloping fogs), an uncounted number of bedrooms opening one onto another with endless numbers of beds that could be pushed up against each other if the single people who had stayed the night before morphed into a couple the next night... a silver salver on a small table by the front door that contained the calling cards of long-ago visitors to the Brooks House, with legends like, "Mrs Henry Stockard Pennington," and their address somewhere in Blue Hill, or Newport. A massive, scratched, dented deal table that could accommodate any of the many jigsaw puzzles who, after weeks of slave labor from all who would entertain the notion, would reveal themselves to be missing two pieces. Of SKY.
On lobster evenings in THAT house (many of them with John's mom and dad on their visits to us), and there were endless lobster evenings since all we had to do was mosey down to the lobster Coop and find David, forget Fedex! I can tell you with relish that the ritual for disposing of the shells was a magical, whirling world away from the black rubbish bags we now are forced to succumb to. No, on those evenings, as you finished a bite of lobster, you didn't even look up, you didn't turn around, you simply flung the empty bit of shell over your shoulder onto the rocks below, to the intense ecstasy of screaming gulls who descended with flattering and completely predictable glee, to eat every morsel before it landed. No rubbish. All food, for someone. How many bowls of avocado-goats cheese dip, how many heaped plates of sauteed red pepper strips, how many tiny crab cakes went with those lobsters? I cannot begin to count them, in my memory.
But no matter. Each meal has its ecstasy. Last night we dug in, and furthered our depredations with corn on the cob, buttery and messy, and thought of John's dad, for whom this was one of his meals "to kill for." Leftovers for lobster rolls tomorrow, with just enough mayo and a bit of minced celery, which will bring my memories of John's dad full circle. That last summer, the last lunch and one which was uniquely mine with him, John and his mom and Avery off at a riding lesson. He and I sat ourselves down at the picnic table with our toasted, loaded rolls, and tucked in. And talked about everything we were thinking: where he'd been in his life, where he was going, where we would be when he was gone, what he worried about, what he didn't worry about (there was a lot more of the latter than the former). It was like lunch with a visiting angel, someone who was partly there in the flesh (the lobster-loving flesh) and partly in the life of the Higher Mind, who had been places I had not been and I could ask him about his experiences. It was an afternoon I could never have had with him with anyone else around, and I knew it. Over our lobster we questioned each other, came to terms with the way the world was for us on that afternoon, and he went to take his nap.
How I miss him.
So our lobster dinner came, and went, here at Red Gate Farm. The giant candelabra we've resurrected this summer from the barn glowed over all, we whisked away the occasional daddy-long-leg who thought the bread was for him. Later that night, through the tiny square window off the kitchen toward the bird feeder, we smelled skunk.
And today brought: kittens! But I'll leave that surprise for another day.