The sales reps took us out to dinner last week at [redacted]. It’s a charming restaurant, in the style of a dinner club you’d expect from the ’20s. I imagine it does a great business with the Bingo-and-Jameson circuit. On a Thursday night at half past eight, with a thirty-degree wind whipping off the water, the place was vacant. The maitre d’ took one look at our party of twenty-five, blinked twice, and told us where to check our coats.
Our pricing manager ordered a lobster, complete with bib and a dish of drawn butter. My boss, sitting next to me, asked if she could eat the tomalley, the rich organ equivalent to the liver in a crustacean. The pricing manager, shrugging, handed a chunk of thorax to her. She took one look at it and frowned. “This lobster was pregnant,” she said.
I looked at the chunk of red meat, identical to the other chunks of red meat, between her fingers. “You sure?” I said.
“Look at the roe,” she said. “You can see where the eggs were. That makes it illegal throughout New England.”*
“You’re like the Columbo of lobsters,” I said.
Trivia like this will forever bar me from being a true “foodie.” I know how to open a crab with my bare hands and a knife, which preserves the meat better than a mallet. I know that tampering with another fisherman’s crab traps in Maryland is no longer a hanging crime**. And I know crabs taste great if they were caught that morning and have a sprinkling of Old Bay on them. But that’s about it. I couldn’t identify the parts. I couldn’t catch one. And I’ve never been on a crabbing boat.
Every now and then I need to be dissuaded of that notion of rural self-sufficiency. I bumbled my way through the Boy Scouts. I get bad allergies from tree pollen. I can’t navigate without a view of the sun and a watch. I’m a city boy at heart. Lobsters are meant to be served to me by men in dinner jackets, not hauled by me out of the sea in nets.
* I’ve redacted the establishment’s name under the advisement of my attorney, since this is all hearsay.
** I’d advise against it regardless, as anyone with a supply of live crabs has a means of disposing bodies.