The first time I witnessed a lobster being cooked alive - it’s bright red, clunky body tossed into a two and a half foot tall pot of steaming death - I cried tears of terror.
I kicked and screamed and spent most of that evening in my room, upset with my parents for ending an innocent life with their bare hands.
I’ve never had an issue with eating animals (aside from the time we dissected chicken in fourth grade - not a full, head to toe chicken, but pieces of tender and thigh from the grocery store. I was grossed out and refused to eat chicken for a whopping month). On that fateful night, I drew the line because we were doing the killing. The idea of throwing a living creature to its death mortified me, even with my parents assurance that they died instantly and in no pain.
The house reeked of lobster for days and I hated it.
In the years since then, I’ve dabbled in lobster. I’ve grown affection for a warm, buttery lobster roll. But it wasn’t until last week, at Ruth & Whimpy's in Hancock, Maine, that I ate my own first lobster.
I’ve been visiting my family’s cabin in Maine since I was four years old. We’ve had a tradition of dining at Ruth & Whimpys for as long as I can remember. The restaurant is a bit of a dive, known for about a million ways of fixin’ lobster. Their website lists a few (“We have lobster newburg, a lobster salad plate, a lobster combo, lobster roll, lobster fondue, lobster stew…”), reminiscent of the infamous shrimp scene in Forrest Gump.
The walls are littered with tchotchkes and license plates from every state, indicating, in my mind, that they’re trying to attract tourists (though they have their fare share of regulars based on my observational research). It’s the kind of place that, though a tiny bit corny, makes you feel at home, because you’ve been there before. Or somewhere like it: TGI Fridays, 99, Ruby Tuesdays; the kinds of places with junk on the walls that seem to serve every type of cuisine imaginable in an effort to appeal to the entire family.
I was hungry. So I insisted we order a round of garlic bread for the table. My mistake. I had forgotten that the only thing they do really well is lobster. This wasn’t garlic bread. It was the cheapest white bread you could find in the supermarket - probably from the discount-about-to-expire pile - with a dusting of garlic powder, splash of vegetable oil, and a slice (!) of low moisture sandwich mozzarella. It was toasted only on one side.
I ate it anyway. There are children starving in Africa, right?
An additional $2 added one trip to the salad bar. I was feeling adventurous. Again, a mistake. Salad bars are usually a mistake. I’ll remember next time.
The meal had hit a low point. But it could only go up from there.
And then the lobsters arrived. Our saving grace.
My fear of ripping apart this recently deceased creature was gone, perhaps because I was so eager to wash down my not-garlic-bread and salmonella-infested salad bar trip with real food.
There was cracking. And cutting. And splashing. And crunching. And pulling. And tearing. And eating. Lots of eating.
My hands, face, and arms were coated in translucent lobster spunk. The large discard bucket filled quickly with shards of bright red lobster shells. It was messy and it was delicious.
The lobster was tender and rich in flavor, texture, and cholesterol. I dipped several pieces in warm butter, resulting in an explosion of flavor that shot straight to my arteries. Our side dish was onion rings (Maine, for whatever reason, is known for their thin, shoestring-like onion rings. They’re incredible).
As our waitress cleaned up our mess, she misjudged her ability to balance a cafeteria tray filled with lobster juice and spilled it all over the seat adjacent to mine. Luckily, the chair was temporarily unoccupied, though it didn’t stop my lower leg from getting a fishy shower.
But it didn’t matter. I was satisfied with the meal.
Lobster, you’ve won me over, good friend. I’ll be seeing you next time I’m in the mood to fork over $42 for a 1.3 pounder at Connie & Ted’s in Los Angeles, where I reside.