A Lobster Tale

A Maine Adventure In Three Acts
Act one: A Brief History & Cinnamon Rolls
Act two: A Lobster Tale

The Little River Lobster Company in tucked behind a house and perched on a bluff overlooking the Little River. It is a simple building that holds a small office and a few shelves stacked with gloves and other items that lobstermen need to do their work. I learn all this later, though, because right now the sign on the door says Closed. 

The Lobster Barn is next on the list, but a hand-written sign on the door reads, Closed. All sold out. Captain Matt’s is literally the end of the road in our search for a fresh lobster dinner.  An enormous sign hanging on a small pre-fab garage reads We are Open. A handful of kids are playing on the back porch when we pull into the driveway. A moment later a large barrel-chested man with a friendly smile and a thick Maine accent emerges from the house. 

“My first question is do you take credit cards?” I ask.

“Yup, just let me get my phone,” Matt replies.

The interior of the garage is taken up almost entirely with two live tanks stacked on top of each other. Each one is about three feet deep and the size of two queen beds put side by side. We purchase four two-pound lobsters and drive back to camp with grand visions of roasting our “catch” over the open fire as we have no large pot to boil the lobsters in. How hard can it be? 

In the book, The Line Tender, the main character makes her father kill the lobster before he boils them. The boys ask me to do the same and given that we are cooking them on an open fire this seems a reasonable request. To do this I must stab each lobster between the eyes. It’s wretched business, and it proves too much for Noah who retreats to Marshmellow followed by Erin and Luke. I silently vow never to do it this way again.  

The fire is hot with a good bed of coals, rain is forecast but given the late hour, I decide to forge ahead. The lobsters’ barely fit on the grill and a couple are still twitching, and though I know they are no longer alive it is still horrifying and I am glad I am out here alone.  

In hindsight, our main worry that we would over-cook the lobster and turn them to rubber is laughable.  The rain soon comes in sheets, and the fire begins to sputter. One part is hot and the other is cool. How do those chef’s on social media make this look so easy? I dash off to rip branches covered in lichen and Spanish moss from a dead tree. The thought crosses my mind that woodsmoke will flavor our lobster, but not enough for me to stop and look for a cleaner fuel source. I stuff the branches into the fire, frantic for it not to go out. When the lobsters are finally done only one of the lobsters is eatable. The others are either partially cooked or taste like moldy gym socks. If we are going to cook lobster again, we are going to need a pot. 

Finding that lobster pot proves as easy as finding decent coffee, and it is only by my sheer dogged determination that we succeed. We try the Lobster Barn first. The website shows pictures of kitschy lobster paraphernalia and lobster pots. The closed sign is still up, but I peer in the window and see some pots on the shelf. I knock on the door of the adjacent house but no one answers. The TrueValue Hardware only has a pot with a burner attached. I naively think that we do not need a burner for the pot.  The man I speak with suggests I try a handful of other places. We stop at the Hammond hardware store but they only have a pot that you can fit an entire turkey in. A kind fashionably dressed woman at the Machias River General Store looks all over her backroom but cannot find one. She makes an off-handed comment that her personal pot is too well-loved to sell and I almost offer her $20 sight unseen, but decide to first try the three dollar stores and the grocery store in town. None of them have pots, so we stop back at the general store, but the woman is gone. Out of options, I buy some extra canisters of gas so that we can cook the lobster on our tiny grill. My family wants lobster and lobster they will have even if I have to grill them two at a time. 

As we pass by the Lobster Barn, I see a car in the driveway of the house, so I veer into the post office parking lot next door.  As I approach the house I see a large cloud of smoke drift up from the back porch and smell the aroma of marijuana. The front door looks directly through a small room and out the backdoor to where I saw the smoke. I knock on the door and a moment later a man of about sixty pops up, eyes wide, like a prairie dog poking his head out of its hole.

When he opens the door I say something to the effect that I see you are closed but I also saw you have pots on the shelf and I’d like to buy a pot. He looks at me with a mixture of confusion and worry, his mouth hanging slightly agape. 

“A lobster pot,” I say, “I saw you had one in your shop.”

“I’m out of business,” he says. But he perks up when it finally all falls into place. In short order, I am walking back to the car with a seventeen-quart pot, my head held high in triumph. 

It does not occur to me until later that he probably thought I was trying to buy the kind of pot you smoke not the kind to boil lobsters in. 

The Little River Lobster Company only takes cash, which after the purchase of the pot I now am short of again. I do have enough for three lobsters, and since it is Erin and the boys who love lobster and I can take it or leave it, everything works out. 

Our new pot is far too large to fit on Marshmellow’s tiny stove and given last night’s debacle and the enamel coating on the pot I am afraid to put it on the fire. So I place it on our small gas grill which is not made to boil even small pots of water, let alone excessively large ones. They say a watched pot never boils and after a good hour and a half, I decide that if I wait around for this pot to boil, we will be having lobster for breakfast. The water may not be boiling but it is hot so I put the lobsters in the pot for a few minutes to get the cooking process started. Then I take them out and place them on the grill to finish the job. 

It is nearly nine when  Erin and the boys begin cracking shells. It has been well worth the wait though, as the lobsters are fully cooked and do not taste like moldy gym socks. We’ve also got a great story of how it took Dad an entire day to cook three lobsters.