June 1, 2012

The Cook in the Ocean State: Lobstah

Fishing boats at sunset

I've been away this week, swapping the bewitching shores of Red Hook to hang with family and friends in the Ocean State. {That's Rhode Island for the geographically challenged}. While there, I hung out by the water, and like a salamander, perched myself on any and all warm surfaces to bask in the sun and sea air.

Lobster pot

I also ate a lot of really fresh seafood - because if there is one thing, aside from water, that the Ocean State has in spades, it's seafood.

Searching for pots

Lobster has a long and ironic history in our food tradition. Back in the 1800's, now pricy lobster was known as 'poor man's chicken,' because it was so plentiful and easily attained. Lobster might come in at 10-15 cents per pound and people were embarrassed to be seen eating it because it signified poverty. Some people even buried the shells rather than throw them away for fear neighbors would see the evidence of last night's lobster dinner. These days, lobsters are more scarce and so regulations and prices have increased. The regulations dictate size, numbers, and fishing techniques. While not endangered, the regulation is to ensure the numbers of lobster are controlled and don't dwindle as is the case with so much seafood.

The lobstah-man

On my first evening in Rhode Island, I helped my cousin check his lobster pots. And by help, I mean that I watched in awe and wonder, taking photographs, while trying to stay out of his way. It was fascinating. He leaned over the side of the boat, hook in hand, at the ready. Once in the area of the floating buoy, it was a dance to get the position of the boat just right so that the rope could be hooked and the pot elevated from its resting place on the ocean floor.

Each time he battled the line to pull the trap from the depths of the ocean, I held my breath - hoping to catch a glimpse of a glistening red lobster when it surfaced. That little rush of suspense and hope is definitely addictive and now I kind of get why folks like to go fishing. Every line is a chance and every chance is exciting.

Empty pot

One of the lobster pots came up opened, meaning someone had gotten to it before we did, perhaps an opportunistic diver. What a downer. Stealing lobsters or tampering with traps is a big-time offense and an issue that commercial lobstermen have struggled with since forever. The buoys floating on the water are like sitting ducks - targets for anyone who might like to swindle a lobster or two. We took it on the chin and moved on.

But, after checking the four traps, we had no lobsters to bring in. It wasn't our night. Even though we were without lobsters, I didn't return back to land empty-handed. I went home with a newfound appreciation for the work it takes to get sweet lobster meat on my plate.

Sunset at sea

When I'm in Brooklyn, far from the shores of New England, I still get to indulge in lobster. I'm only a hop, skip and a jump away from Red Hook Lobster Pound and their delectable lobster rolls. Or, I can venture further to Lobster Joint in Greenpoint to get my fix of 'poor man's chicken.'

At home, perhaps the easiest preparation of lobster is to grill it - which is perfect for summer time. I like the simplicity of this recipe for Simple Grilled Whole Lobster over at Food Republic.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!