As soon as we got to Maine, we began planning one-percent-style outings. My mom had booked tickets to the rare public opening of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s private garden, which is open only on eight days a year, a magnificent manicured sanctuary in the middle of the Maine woods. We drank gin at The Claremont, a 150-year-old hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, which has the most perfect, tree-lined view of the harbor. And of course, we ate lobster. In their efforts to help out the local fishery, restaurants seemed to have even more ways to cook the crustacean beyond the classic boiled lobster dinner, bisque, and lobster rolls. There was lobster eggs benedict, lobster pizza, lobster-tail tempura, and lobster with shiitake-mushroom sauce and homemade strozzapretti.
The recipe columnist for the local paper was trying to help shake lobster’s fancy-pants image in an effort to get us all to eat it. She suggested making yourself something called a “Millionaire Cocktail,” which involved five kinds of gin, then settling into the kitchen to whip yourself up the decidedly down-at-the-heel “Maine Baked Lobster Pie,” which is topped with breadcrumbs. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with that. But what makes lobster special when you can get it fished, cooked, and de-shelled for less than chicken thighs cost at the supermarket?
It all puts me in mind of a story my parents picked up from their time living in Newfoundland in the early 70s. The society had been built on cod fishing, which was now on the wane, boats languishing on beaches. And sometimes, when it got bad enough, they heard, Newfoundland families would draw their shades, dim the lights, and eat lobster. It’s still true: one man’s delicacy is another man’s bait.