I learned on a Duck Tour in Boston that in the old days before epicures discovered their delicious flavor, lobsters were used as fertilizer, served to prisoners and were a staple on poor people’s dinner table. Lobsters were considered peasant food because of their abundance and also perhaps because the lobster is a true bottom feeder and survives on eating — well, rather disgusting things.
When I was twelve, I went camping with a friend of mine and his family. The conversation led to food and the family was raving about a lobster bake they had recently attended. My friend’s father turned to me and asked if I ever had lobster. Not wanting to feel left out I went on how it was a staple at family gatherings and how delicious it was.
When I was dropped off at home, I lied to my mom and told her about the lobster dinner I ate while camping and asked if we could have some for dinner that week. I knew they were available. My sister and I would race to see the lobsters fighting in the tank at the supermarket. It was the highlight of my childhood Saturday afternoons. Why then were they not on the dinner table?
For months I went on and on about lobster, dropping hints every time we went past the tanks and coming up empty at dinner time. Finally, I gave up.
For my thirteenth birthday, my grandparents showed up for dinner. I remember thinking this was bizarre because they always came for cake and ice cream and never for the meal. I was more suspicious when I was not allowed in the kitchen and when I came close, someone would shoo me away. Something exciting was going on.
Dinner was called and I took my traditional birthday seat at the head of the table. The meal was set, but my plate was empty. Confused, I look at my mom who was standing by the stove. Reaching into a large steaming with a pair of tongs, my mom pulled out a bright red lobster and put it on my plate. It was accompanied by a ramekin of clarified butter. I was doing culinary cartwheels inside.
My grandfather helped me crack the shells and get the best meat from the inside. I could hardly wait for him to shell the tail meat before I took a big piece of claw meat, dunked it in butter and shoved it into my mouth.
…chew chew chew
This is awful. I pushed the lobster aside and shamefully admitted to my mom that I didn’t like my meal and had never actually tried it before.
The rest of my lobster went home with my grandparents and I vowed never to try it again — a promise I upheld for nearly 8 years.
I know now that there was nothing wrong with the lobster. It was succulent and perfectly cooked (the reason my grandparents were there was because my grandfather knew how to steam lobsters). At thirteen, my palette just wasn’t ready for the taste. What should have been delectable was fishy. My thirteen year old palette was stuck in the 1700’s.
There are foods that we swear we don’t like because we had a bad experience with them once or we don’t like the color or we have some other convincing argument that makes us cringe at the thought of consuming it. One of my friends didn’t eat certain vegetables for decades because their names sounded wrong. Turnips, parsnips, asparagus, beets — yuck!
If it’s been awhile or you have never actually tried something, it’s time to take a risk and consider these ingredients again. You may find your palette appreciating what once was repulsive to be luxurious.