July 26, 2013 by aoifebrennan
reprinted from TheJournalist.ie, written by me, read by you! Enjoy!
Have you heard the one about the Irish lobster? It goes like this. One day an American was dining in an upmarket Irish fish restaurant. He noticed that the tank of lobsters was very full and also seemed very shallow. He noticed that a number of lobsters, especially one very large one, seemed about to launch himself out of the tank in a heroic bid to escape. He beckoned the waiter over to express his concerns but was assured by the Dubliner that they were Irish lobsters. “What does that mean?” he said. “Just watch,” said the waiter. They both looked at the tank together and watched in horror as the big lobster hauled himself to the edge of the tank, pivoted briefly for a moment and was about to launch himself to certain freedom or shell-crushing death on the tiles below, or both, when the other lobsters swarmed about his legs and pulled him back into the tank. “See,” said the waiter. “Irish lobsters.”
My first introduction to a live lobster was in America. I was on my J1 visa and living in Harvard Square. I was renting off a mad East European who liked to walk semi naked in the house. He also caught lobsters with his bare hands. I paint the picture, you fill in the details. One day I came back from work to see a bucket full of them splashing about in the kitchen. It was a present. So that night I put on a huge saucepan and cooked the lobsters. I will never do that again and please do not send me hate mail. The noise of the air escaping their shells was horrible. I know that lobsters do not have vocal chords so it was just the air but it haunts me like the screaming lambs in Thomas Harris’s bestseller. Then, since we were in rented accommodation, there were no claw crackers and I am afraid most of the meat in the claws went uneaten. I didn’t really have the heart to do it either. It was the same when I once skinned rabbits and jointed them for rabbit stew but that is another story altogether.
I then moved continent some years later and lived in Australia. This is the land of the seafood platter and they do it in style. I ate my way through swimming pools of lobster. This was helped by two factors. Firstly, everyone had lobster crackers and that sure beats trying to crack claws using one’s teeth. Secondly, they often dress your lobster which I prefer. I am a naturally indolent grazer. If it is too hard to find the succulent meats, then I go without. However, if some poor chef sweating in a hot kitchen has cracked the claws and extracted the meat then I will eat it with pleasure.
In my travels I next moved to Singapore where they are immensely proud of their cuisine and rightly so. They also have some quite unusual delicacies. We used to bring visitors to this posh restaurant that served drunken prawns. They would arrive at the table in a clear bowl of alcoholic liquor – with a lid to stop them jumping out; they were not Irish prawns – before being taken away. Later they would emerge with the rest of the food, pink, drunk and cooked. Lobster tamale was also very much sought after. This is a greenish, blackish paste that can be served with the shellfish. It is actually the liver and pancreas and is found in the cavity of the main body of the lobster. It is very rich in flavour but not that attractive in appearance.
So how do you eat your lobster? I prefer mine to be dead when it arrives at my table, I prefer not see it alive before or to choose it from the tank. There is a very good sketch in the HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy when a cow approaches the diners and tries to ascertain which cut they would like to eat for dinner. I have become a little squeamish in the same way with lobster. I also prefer it dressed and prepared and all ready for me to eat with my little hooked instrument. I will pass on the tamale thank you very much.