Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink: Back to the future past

A good ol’ lobster dinner can traverse time and place



Surf ’n’ turf; steak ’n’ lobster: the very notion of eating lobster has a whiff of the 1960s about it, replete with wine-coloured vinyl banquettes, walnut panelling and gentlemen in suits adjusting cuff-linked shirt sleeves as they order Pink Ladies for their bouffanted princesses and scotch on the rocks — make that a double — for themselves.

Sure you can still order lobster at some seafood restaurants, but over the years the glean has pretty much gone off the crinkly white lobster tail once served up by the platterfuls in its bright red shell along with a tiny cup of melted butter and a companion chunk of beef.

That is unless you are from Trepassey, Newfoundland or Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, in which case the mighty lobster may well be saving your diet and your hide after the collapse, no, downright death of the cod fishery.

I’d pretty much forgotten about lobster ’til a fundraising “lobsterfest” dinner the other night, and I must say I was duly impressed. This was a traditional Nova Scotian-style ’fest — green salad, coleslaw, potato salad, a lobster the size of a cat, with fruit pies and Screech to boot.

Being the prairie girl I am, I had no idea how such an evening would unfold, so I wore my best beat-up jeans, a woolen shirt and my bright yellow sou’wester hat right from Newfoundland, just in case.

Perfect attire: I was the belle of the ball, for the first thing we unraveled was a funky plastic bag complete with a pair of pliers, I mean lobster cracker, a couple of chocolate bars (for post-dessert) and directions on how to tackle a lobster.

Getting into a lobster is one matter; choosing the right one to start with is another. East Coasters are aficionados at this, so we lobster-bereft West Coasters just have to follow along.

First off, do you want a soft-shell or hard-shell lobster? A big or small one? Boy or girl (girls are called hens)? Or a green or red one to start?

For sure you don’t want one that’s dead. Live Atlantic lobsters ( Homarus americanus ) are blackish or brownish green so that’s where you want to start; it’s the cooking that turns the shell bright orange-red.

Ours had been plucked from Nova Scotian waters and flown across the country in a day in Styrofoam containers with gel packs to chill them, so we had hard-shells, which ship better than the soft shell lobsters or “shedders”, as they’re called. Some people prefer shedders — they claim the meat is sweeter. But maybe what they really like is the fact that their shells are easier to break apart to get at that delicious meat.