The Accidental Lobster-treats-for-the-staff Night

Sometimes it is all about the thrill of the chase as this story will illustrate. There is a very wonderful seafood market in Chicago known as the Fishguy. Even though I had never been to this shop,  I receive some very interesting emails from the quirky owner, Bill Dugan. This particular email about lobster intrigued me.  Here, Steven Tobiason makes friends with the lobsters.                                                                                                            Lobster-milw christmas party 08 002

Here is the copy from the Fishguy?s enlightening email

“You may find this interesting. I have been buying Lobster from the same gentleman for almost 30 years.My Godparents who had retired to Maine put us in contact with one another.We speak on average three times a week.We have yet to meet in person (pathetic) which does not speak to highly of the spare time for travel among independent Fishmongers. I asked him about 2 months back about the news of record low prices.The reason is that we export 90 percent of our entire Lobster production to…drum roll please..
Canada.Why? They have developed a global market for canned Lobster meat over the last 75 years and that’s where it all goes,but given the weakened global economy they ceased buying and all of the U.S. Lobstermen (and women) got stuck holding the bag.

Although the price did drop dramatically I have been paying premiums for offshore hardshell Lobster that can make the trip. So for all of you folks who wonder why you can buy them at the Star market in Cambridge for 5.99 lb. and the Fishguy is 19.00, what gives? Is this a conspiracy?
Those are ‘new shell’ Lobster that have recently shedded and have not grown in to they’re new body fully, therefore the meat although still delicious is very skimpy in comparison.
As well, they would never make the flight to Chicago and therefore I have to pay over 11.00 per lb. to get them here (the hardshells) and still suffer a small mortality loss.
Anyhow, I thought that I would pass along a nice price so that you might enjoy a ‘Shore Dinnah”
This coming Thursday December 11 Lobsters will be 11.00 per lb.
on the 12th,12.00 per lb. and on the 13th ,13.00 per lb.
Limit of 4 per customer.”

Wow, great super fresh premium lobsters ON SALE right before the holidays. I envisioned presenting my parents with two beautiful lobsters on Christmas, or a special Christmas Eve meal with lobster and candlelight for my husband and I. So, with my mapquest in hand, I headed into a part of the city I was not familiar with. Found parking, amazing in itself, and walked into the shop. The two men ahead of me were so excited, they were talking about when they used to live in Maine. I can?t believe how dumb I was not to realize that these were LIVE lobsters pulled out of a tank. So, they get yanked out of the tank, wrapped in newspapers, and then put in a paper sack with a handle. I carried them to my car where they continued to rustle about, and I swear they were making little eek sounds. (Or maybe that was me) I flashed back to when I got my kitten. She was listed in the paper as “half price” because she was the runt of the litter. She was at a Russian employment agency and when I said I would take her, the man said, all I will have to put her in this paper sack. She was only five weeks old and she and the Mom cat seemed pretty traumatized by the separation. I got the idea that if I did not buy her, she was going to end up in the river. Anyway, I drove home with a rustling paper sack and heartbreaking MEW, MEW, MEWs. Now, it was crying lobsters. Yet, I could not make these lobsters my pets! I am not a vegetarian but I knew I could not kill the lobsters. I took them back to the store and said “I have done a terrible thing.” My staff assumed I had spent too much money Christmas shopping! “I chased down these lobsters that were on sale and I can?t cook them alive! Fortunately, I have a staff which consists of many culinary school graduates who were only to happy to take the live lobsters off of my hands. Steven cooked them that night, using our shrimp and crab boil spice. The next night he laid out newspapers claw crackers, mallets and some drawn butter and the lobster was enjoyed by the late night staff. These are the elves that make the gift boxes that we need for the next day. So at least my treasure hunt turned into a nice treat for the staff. I vowed to stick to my area of expertise, spices, and leave the lobsters to the Fishguy.

  • Fern

    Great story! Is this where the saying “who let the cat out of the bag” came from? I am a fishmonger and am always amused by squeamish customers. Just remember that lobsters are pretty much just large bugs and they really don’t cry – the noises are just from their shells moving around and from air or steam escaping from their shells. If you don’t want to cook them alive you can stick a chef’s knife into the shell behind their eyes (although they may keep moving) or stick them in the freezer for a little while. Also, it may seem less traumatic to steam them instead of dropping them into a full pot of water.

  • http://thealchemistblog.wordpress.com Genevieve

    Wow, what a story! Don’t feel bad, though–I neglect to remember “tiny, insignificant” details like that all the time. I prefer to think it’s the result of genius, a sort of handicap that comes with having so many lofty, earth-shatteringly brilliant things on my mind all the time. ;)
    Anyhow, I just discovered the blog part of your site, and posted an entry to my own food blog (http://thealchemistblog.wordpress.com) with ample Spice House praise and a recipe featuring your hot curry powder, as I was so impressed with my present! I’m enjoying the blog, and will add it to my blog’s list of favorite links!
    Thanks, and keep up the excellent work!
    Genevieve

  • Cathy

    Love your lobster story . Here’s an interesting twist.I tracked down some inexpensive ( 5$ lb) lobster this Christmas.Seems the Boston / New York high end restaurant market has dried up for lobster this year so Nova Scotia Fisherman are driving to the city (Halifax) and selling them out of the back of their trucks in various parking lots around the city.