Wharf culture: Fish tales
It is a good thing I live inland because wharf culture doesn’t appeal to me — squawking gulls, smells of the sea mean fish and I don’t like fish. That doesn’t mean I managed to avoid fish, especially lobster.
The earliest lobster story wasn’t even mine; it was my brother’s. For his 16th birthday he requested a dinner at the Jai Lai, extinct now but then the highlight of dining. He ordered a live lobster from a tank by the kitchen. As was customary, the waiter tied a large white bib on him and when the steaming crustacean arrived outfitted with bowls of butter, he turned ashen and left the table. “Too soon alive,” he said.
Since I had dissected crawfish in zoology class, there was no way I would ever order a bigger version and I had already a distaste for fish. But I am civilized and know how to behave at parties with friends so when a fellow teacher at Dublin High School asked my husband and me to their friend’s home for dinner, I accepted.
The friends were Barb and Jim Trueman, the yet-to-be creator of Red Roof Inns and sponsor of Bobby Rahal, the Indie driver. Barb served Lobster Thermidor. We were all young then, mostly poor but with aspirations which meant acting a class or two above our stations. My husband knew I didn’t like shell fish even fancy French dressed ones and said so. How helpful was that! I could have whittled around the edges, offered up an allergy excuse, anything, but not the truth. There it was though. She doesn’t like what you so carefully prepared. He ate mine.
Another lobster event happened naturally in Maine on vacation where my husband wanted to eat the state’s plate du jour. We stopped at an unattractive shelter with a dozen picnic tables and a tank full of “fresh” lobsters. While my husband picked at his, I watched an old weathered, toothless woman attack hers. She had the whole tail in her hands gumming it like we do corn-on-the cob, green gland ooze dripping down a crease in her chin.
She saw me starring at her and said, “Makes you glad you are alive.”
One last lobster tale which made me wish I were dead. Again it was a dinner party with lobster as the main dish. This time my husband didn’t say anything. I ate around the edges while he finished it off. That evening back in our apartment, I emptied the trash for some reason. He helped hold the soddened paper bag and without warning threw up that dinner into the bag which broke, but not before covering my hand and arm in vomit. I really don’t like lobster, especially twice over!
Sylvia Zimmerman is the owner of Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese in Richwood. She holds two graduate degrees and, when not working on her farm or pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture, writes her own blog.