656. Lobster and I/Tong Yong Chen/10/2018

Lobster and I  

 Author: Tong Yong Chen

Yesterday, my daughter sent me a video of my little granddaughter’s speech. She wanted to tell the story of Grandpa and Lobster in school. She said Grandpa loves to eat lobster, but there were few lobsters in North Carolina for him to find. So once he came to Boston, he went to the market and bought six lobsters. However, when he took the lobsters to his daughter’s home, nobody liked to eat. Grandpa ended up ate them all.

Of course, this story is a bit exaggerated. But I am indeed a lover of lobster.

Holding a lobster, reminds me of many lobster stories. I remembered, while I was in junior high school 60 years ago,, You could hardly find lobster in Taiwan, but my father had a friend living in Ryukyu, a little offshore island. I have heard that in this island, there was a cave called “Black ghost hole”. In this hole, lobsters can be found and caught. Once, this friend brought my father a lobster. This was my first time to eat lobster. Since then, the taste of lobster has remained in my tongue, it became the best seafood I ever had.  Later, this friend sent my Dad a trophy of a large lobster,

we hang it on the wall, and quite often, we would be standing there staring and drooling. Before I left Taiwan in 1972, I had never eaten lobster again. Of course, now lobsters can be airlifted from New England to Taiwan, and it is no longer a rare thing.

I came to the United States in 1972. In the next year I was a resident in the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. One day, my wife called me and told me excitingly that she saw lobsters were on sale at the supermarket. She asked if I would like to buy some. I got excited too and told her to buy two. When I came home, I saw two giant lobsters, they turned out to be six or seven pounds each, and not like the small one we ate in Taiwan. As a result, my mom, two of us and my one-year-old daughter, could not even finish half a lobster that night.

Later I came to Philadelphia, I was not paid enough and could only save $ 45 a month. Every month, we would be happy if we could have a steak meal with my family in the popular Ponderosa Steakhouse.

1978, we moved to Charlotte, NC.  I started my medical practice. We were able to afford the delicacies as we like, but it was hard to find fresh and live lobster to steam there. We could only visit a handful of Chinese restaurants and ate those sticky and greasy Cantonese style lobster dishes. Not the steamed lobster with that unique flavor I preferred.

When my daughter was ready to go to boarding school in New England, we took her to a school tour. Exeter Philip Academy is in a small town in New Hampshire. On the day of driving, we hit the heavily snowing and heavily covered snowy road until it was 10 pm. In the darkness, we suddenly saw a building, gleaming with yellow light, a little spooky. Closer to a look, we heard rock music pounding. It was a large granary restaurant in a barn. There were also a group of young men and women dancing happily.

Cold and hungry, I was so happy to see a lobster pie on the menu. Until then I didn’t know, besides steamed and stir-fried, there were other different lobster dishes. My lobster pie dish turned out to be a bowl of melted butter with three large pieces of lobster meat in it. It was so delicious and I was so happy that this became a beautiful memory of my life. Later, I found out, this was an unusual lobster pie. The traditional lobster pie normally have a crust shell on top and lobster meat with potato, peas, milk sauce inside.

Later, while we were visiting our daughter in Exeter, we ran into a supermarket selling cheap lobsters, about $2-3 per pound. We decided to buy an electric skillet to cook lobster. Steam cooker. Each time we came to Exeter, we would plug in the skillet, cooked lobsters to have a happy feast. We even shorted the circuit once in the hotel room. It was so embarrassing to explain to the hotel electrician what had happed.

Later in Charlotte, we started to see fresh live lobster flown in from New England. Since then, lobsters became a popular food in our dishes. Every time we have relatives or friends around, we often treated them with lobster dinner, leaving many precious memories.

There are many kinds of lobster recipe, Chinese styles, stir-fried with onion, garlic, salt and pepper … Western styles– grilled, pie, roll, macaroni and cheese. Salad, pastas, risotto, bisque, stew, steamed. However, my favorite is still the steamed ones. I like to dip it in melted butter. To me, this way keeps that unique authentic lobster flavor.

My daughters often laugh at me and say, the main reason I come to Boston is not because of them, but to eat lobster. I asked myself, it is probably true, at least in my unconsciousness.

Boston has a well-known seafood restaurant called “Legal Seafood”. Its advertising slogan is “IF IT IS NOT FRESH, IT IS NOT LEGAL.” I’ve been to this restaurant twice and I feel that their lobster is not legal enough to me. In Boston, My favorite lobster restaurant is Weathervane. It has a shape of a big fishing boat with a sail and a weathervane with a big rooster on the top of the mast. Their lobsters are fresh and lively. Putting on a plastic apron, it comes with a big plate of steamers (small clams with long noses), oysters, corn, potatoes, salads, sausage, and a glass of draft beer, I could eat three of lobsters together when I was younger. This restaurant has no fancy interior design, no pretentious, flamboyant guests, and just common people. Everyone has a share of laugh and joy. It always fascinates me the scenes of pirates’ wild party in the Caribbean Sea, big bowl of wine and large pieces of meat with loud music and laugh. What an exciting moment.

When this Weathervane in Boston closed, I continue to drive two-hours to go the Weathervane in Kittery, Maine to make a special trip to have a lobster feast.

After retirement, I realized that I hadn’t spent much time with my mother since I was a child. At the time, my mother was living with my sister in Los Angeles, I decided to find a condo in Laguna Woods Village near Los Angeles. So I could bring her to spend sometimes in my condo once a while. We had traveled for years before her death between North Carolina and California to see her.

Every time when we brought my mom to our condo, we would stop by H-Mart Supermarket in Irvine and buy lobsters. The lobster there was very cheap, often on sale for $7.99 a pound. On that evening, we would have a delicious dinner with lobster and creamy corn soup, we like to call it “Seafood Night”. My Mom really loved it.

Every time when I fed a small piece of lobster meat into my mother’s mouth, her kind-hearted, satisfying smile always reminded me the time when I was a little child. I was a naughty and picky eater. When I swallowed a mouth of her feed that was the same Smile I remembered.

Now Mom has gone. When I eat lobster with my wife, I cannot help but to hope that my Mom would still be sitting at the table with us. I begged to be able to feed her once again and see that satisfying and heartfelt smile.

Now, my teeth are no longer as strong as used to be. The event of eating three lobsters at once is no more. My proud simulation of pirate glory is gone. Now, my favorite is lobster roll, because these claw meat on the roll is relatively tenderer.

I want to thank you, lobster family!! How much happiness and memory your sacrifices has brought us. You have done the greatest contribution to the mankind. I will always remember you in my hearts, (not in the stomach), I miss you and thank you again!!

Enjoyed with my mothet
Enjoyed with my grandchild
Enjoyed with my wife

 Source from Dr. Tong Y. Chen

posted on 10/19/2018