This will be an unusual post for this blog. This is a story about lobster. This is a story of family, good times spent together, breaking myths and quite a bit of gluttony. This is dedicated to my mother.
Back in the early stages of my parent’s marriage they went to a popular trip, back then, for Québec people to do the “tour de la Gaspésie”. Gaspésie is the most eastern peninsula of Québec’s south shore of the St-Lawrence river. At the very start of the region, they stopped in what looked like burger shack in Ste-Flavie. Ordering lobster, they would change their, and all of our lives forever. Sitting on a picnic table, the lobster was served, directly out of a meatlocker, unprepared with a bottle of mayonnaise with a drink of Coca-Cola.
The lobster was plainly the best they’ve ever eaten. As they worked messily through their lobster it became quite clear that the mayo, cold lobster and Coke is something only deities can dream of. Alright, this sounds like a lobster roll type of thing but it isn’t, it is more than that. For the foreseeable future, this shack by the side of the road would be a destination of choice, every spring. My parents would pack up the kids, travel close to 4 hours to eat lobster and then come back.
I remember being very young and going there and eat a hot dog because Lobsters looked icky. I remember,a few years later, enjoying my lobster like it was chocolate cake, having finally seen the light, and making fun of my younger brother and his ketchup-filled hot dog. I remember coming back from there, laying in the hatchback of the car belly filled the precious meat and going to sleep.
Unfortunately, at one point my father decided that it was a bit insane to travel 8 hours to eat lobster. A few unsuccessful tries of more accessible lobster had us longing for the ride. Then, one spring, while we were at my grandmother’s place came the epiphany: the lobster longed for. The lobster from a fishmonger close by. The two wonderful ladies running the place knew lobster and they cooked it just the way we wanted. From then on started a tradition that still is in place today.
My mother’s birthday is always around the Mother’s day weekend. It just so happens that Mother’s day weekend is also the second week of Lobster of les Iles de la Madelaine, a small archipelago in the gulf of the St-Lawrence river, a place particularly known for its lobster (think like Maine is to Americans.) So from then on, the person closest to that fishmonger would pick up an amazing pile of lobsters and get to my parent’s place and we would celebrate my mother’s birthday by gorging ourselves with lobster. Only lobster.
One thing that is also particular in this process is that most people will say that the best way retain the full flavour of the lobster is to cook it in only sea water. The fishmonger we buy it at, do cook it with sea water but with the important addition of a court-bouillon. This gives a subtle taste to the lobster than makes all the difference.
As I explained earlier, we eat lobster with mayonnaise and coke. To this day, nothing has changed because even though I have eaten lobster in many other ways, this is simply the best way, the closest to the product and the tastiest. We don’t eat it with fancy home made mayo either, I tried it once and it wasn’t the same, we use Hellman’s.
We don’t prepare it in anyway before it is at the table. We take it from the iced cooler and dump in an empty plate. That’s it. You take care of going through the messy process of getting the meat out of there. Juices fly. Fat flies. Everybody has a smile on his face. We all have our own process to eat it too. My father open it all up and takes out all of the meat then goes to work. I start by sucking the legs, then move to the smaller claw and arm, then the bigger claw, then tail and finally sucking on the little flaps at the end of the tail. Once I am finished I give my carcass to my father so that he can eat the insides, because I am not that fond of it. Taking a nice piece of meat, dipping into the mayo, and right at the second the lobster disappears in your throat, taking a nice sips of coke, that bubbles in your mouth… it is ecstasy.
There is a notion that is perpetuated by restaurateurs, fishmongers and even fishermen that 1 ½ pound Iles de la Madeleine and Gaspésie lobsters are the best. I call bullshit. The best lobsters, to me are the 2+ pounds. Because of that, we eat 2+ pounds lobsters, usually two of them. At the end of the meal, we are usually way beyond the point of being satiated.
More than anything, this is a way to be together and celebrate the most important woman in my life. Enjoy a messy meal, like children, with the people I love. The only thing missing for the past few years was my brother, away in the Hong Kong he chose to make his life in, hoping that he will return to share this once again in the future.
Merci Maman pour être là