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Lobster Mac and Cheese: The end of civilization as we know it? I think so.

…the combination diminishes the components. The whole is actually less than the sum of its parts.

I’m not necessarily opposed to gilding the lily. In truth I enjoy a gold covered stamen as much as the next slattern. Neither am I in any way against indulging in a little wretched excess from time to time. A third round of Singapore Slings before dinner? Serve ’em up! Deep fat fried cheesecake? I’m game if y’all are, Paula. Pepperoni AND sausage on that double cheese pie? Why the hell not? As long as I’ve got a full six pack in the fridge it’s all good.

Courtesy the Food Network. Ewww.

Courtesy the Food Network. Ewww.

No, I’m no stranger to overindulgence, even gluttony, but even so one has to draw the line somewhere, and for me it’s the addition of lobster to macaroni and cheese or mac and cheese to lobster, depending on your point of view. It’s just too much of a good thing, and though I tend to regard moderation as the province of Gwyneth Paltrow, sissies, milquetoasts and Proust scholars, in this I’m with the mung beaners. Lobster simply has no place in the all-American favorite.

Here’s why: With macaroni and cheese you always run the risk of leaving the table with a stodge ball lodged uncomfortably amidships. Because the dish is delicious in the extreme, more often than not the temptation is to overindulge. It doesn’t matter how much steamed asparagus, undressed green salad or ratatouille comes with it, you will almost certainly waddle away from the table, then collapse on the nearest horizontal surface only to awake two hours later, sweaty, parched and numb from the waist down because the waistband of your pants has cut off all circulation to the lower extremities. The same holds true for meals involving the noble crustacean. So mind bogglingly delicious is the flesh of the bottom feeder, especially when dipped in melted butter, it is only the labor involved in extracting it and the enormous expense of ordering up a second one that keep the delirious diner from taxing the digestive system beyond its limits. When the two are combined, no good can come of it.

"Here's mine. Your LobMacChee is out back in the trough." Via

“Here’s mine. Your LobMacChee is out back in the trough.”

That LobMacChee is much of a muchness is not sufficient for condemnation, of course. Many things are excessive and still manage to stay on my menu — hot fudge brownie sundaes, double bacon bleu cheeseburgers, champagne cocktails and PopTarts for breakfast, to name but a few. No, the reason I object to this new taste sensation is that the combination diminishes the components. The whole is actually less than the sum of its parts. The cheese overpowers the lobster, the lobster distracts from the mac and cheese, and neither shines. And that, quite simply, is why I view the dish as a crime against the palate.

Lobster mac and cheese occasionally turns up among restaurant offerings in the metropolis; however, in the eateries of Downeast Maine it is now apparently de rigeur, as common as muffin tops, missing teeth and limp cole slaw. In fact, it appeared on every menu I perused on my recent trip north to open up the Slattern family summer palace on scenic Chum Bucket Lane. I can only assume the plague is spreading, so consider yourselves warned.

Still not convinced? Well, different streaks, as the saying goes. If you must, here’s a recipe for lobster macaroni and cheese from none other than Her Bang-cellency, the one and only Ina Garten. What else makes sense?

Size does matter, but quality rules

How to choose fresh fish, avoid bad clams and triumph at the lobster pound by choosing the smaller, softer crustacean

Apparently lobster prices in Maine are at an all-time low. That’s very rough for all the hardworking lobstermen and women in my home state, and if you don’t think lobstering is tough work, think again. Imagine being out on the water in freezing weather (every month of the year but July) on an open boat deck, wearing rubber overalls while handling bait and pulling traps up from the bottom of the bay to earn your living. It’s cold, it’s backbreaking, it’s dirty and it’s dangerous.


Whatever the price, if we don’t buy lobsters, the lobsterman’s labor is all for naught. So as we approach the season of my most favorite of all seafood, the soft shell lobster (or shedder), I thought you might profit by taking a gander at my seminal look at seafood, Avoid the Bad Clam, originally posted in October of last year. It contains many handy tips on choosing seafood to prepare at home and an invaluable guide to successfully navigating the lobster pound. Here you go:

Click the photo to read the original!

You’re from away, aren’t ya?

Your guide to vacationing in Maine this summer

Eat in or take out!

It was recently brought to my attention that in my last post, Welcome to New York! Now get out of my way, I may have come across as a bit, how shall I say, strident. Some might even say elitist or xenophobic. I don’t know, I’ll leave the choice of adjective to you. In any case, in the interest of fair play (and as part of my ongoing commitment to tourist safety), I’m taking the quite possibly unprecedented step of rebutting myself on this one with some advice for New Yorkers who plan to visit the great state of Maine this summer. Why? Well, for one thing Maine has fairly “relaxed” gun laws, and those objects you see bisecting the rear windows of pickup trucks are not golf-club racks.

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Carving and Cracking

Thomas Keller's roast chicken courtesy Do NOT try this at home.

I can’t carve a cooked bird to save my life. Even sober. Though let’s be honest I can’t even recall the last time I got to the carving stage with my feet in my shoes and my bra on the inside of my sweater. I start pretty well, but eventually am reduced to tearing away at the flesh with my fingers and flinging it on the platter so as to get it to the table while it’s still warm and the guests are still upright. Anyways, the always helpful Jamie Oliver has a video on his site demonstrating how to carve up a chicken and it looks so easy I may even try it again myself. By the way, that’s one of Jamie’s minions (presumably a relative) who carves up the bird. When I first cued it up I thought I’d opened that pesky time machine by mistake again.

Now, I was considering starting a video series myself, but then I was thinking maybe I don’t have any particular skills to demonstrate. That was until I clicked on Jamie’s video of how to prepare a cooked lobster, and let me tell you that is just wrong. As I may have mentioned, I grew up in Maine where lobster shells are used as teething rings, and if there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s extracting every last shred of edible foodstuffs from a lobster.  And I don’t need no stinking knife to do it either, Blondie. So stay tuned.

If you’re wondering how to choose a lobster (or any seafood for that matter), take a stroll through my archives.

Avoid the bad clam

Courtesy healthsciencetechnology.

I am a magnet for bad seafood. At a restaurant table of six, everyone gets a delicious portion of crab cakes, broiled scrod or lazy man’s lobster. Except me. If there’s one malodorous, borderline piece of fish, one rotting lobster tail or just a single rancid clam in the kitchen, it magically finds its way to my plate. So, out of necessity, I have become something of an expert in the choosing, purchase and preparation of fish. If you’d ever been on the business end of a bad mussel, you would be too.

I’ll spare you the usual foray into my sordid past and get right to business.

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