How to Make a Lobster Roll When There’s More Than One Maritimer in the Room

We were lucky enough last week to be in on a delivery of Nova Scotia lobster. It seems that, once again, the supermarket chains are undercutting the fishers and are offering a dollar less per pound than it would cost to catch the things. So one enterprising fisher from Yarmouth decided to fill a truck with lobster and head to Toronto. Word went out through a local CSA network and at the appointed date and time, we all showed up, happy to pay $7 a pound  – a couple of bucks less than the cheapest local price and $3 more per pound than the chains were offering the fishers. There were even some local restaurants getting in on the deal, and the general concensus was that it was the best lobster we’d ever had outside of the Maritimes.

Greg and I were relatively conservative, buying only a half dozen. Our plan was to eat a couple, put two more into risotto and freeze the meat from the last two to pair with fiddleheads in a quiche at a later date. That didn’t happen, of course, because last Saturday, despite having had lobster for dinner the night before, we both had a hankering for lobster rolls.

The lobster roll is a specialty of the Atlantic provinces. McDonald’s even offers them in Nova Scotia. They do show up in the occasional fancy restaurant, but they are, for the most part, a roadside treat, purchased while driving around places like Peggy’s Cove; sweet chunks of fresh lobster meat presented on a soft white bun.

Problem is, there are as many ways to prepare this simple dish as there are Maritimers. And none of us can agree on the correct way to do it.

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Food With Legs

We had to take the dog in for surgery last week. We knew it was coming and planned it for the week before Christmas because we knew it would be a quiet time. With all of our shopping and baking and wrapping done ahead of time, we had nothing to do but sit around, watch movies and pamper a recovering pet.

Except things don’t always work out as planned and our pooch came home with a painkiller patch on his belly – that didn’t work. By the night of the 23rd, when the anaesthetic had worn off, he was miserable and was whining and yowling in pain – straight through the night. We got zero sleep and didn’t know what to do. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I rushed over to the vet’s office for new painkillers; apparently there’s a small percentage of dogs that just don’t take to that medication – I had one of them. Needing groceries, I also stopped at the local Metro and grabbed three lobster.

Lobster are typically cheap around the holidays, and Greg and I have a tradition of eating lobster on Christmas Eve. I got the last three in the tank, telling the girl behind the counter that I only wanted them if they were alive and active. She assured me they were and boxed them up.

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Loving the Lobster

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Chives restaurant in Halifax with my brother and his wife. Our mains arrived and I dug into my lobster risotto. “You guys want some?” I asked, in between inhaling mouthfuls of the rich and creamy dish.

They both wrinkled up their noses at me. “No thanks… we’re kind of tired of lobster.”

Whu-whut?? Who could possibly be tired of lobster? Don’t they realize how good this stuff is? Why, if I lived, as they do, a mere 10 minute walk from the local wharf, and it was as cheap as it has been this summer, I’d eat lobster at least once a week. “We do.” They do. And they’re getting kind of sick of it.

Blame it on the recession. When times are tough, we give up the luxuries first, and this past year, even the people who could still afford the luxuries mostly gave them up, so as not to seem ostentatious while their friends and neighbours were losing jobs, homes and life savings. Which means that items like lobster, fine wines and truffles have been getting a bad rap, and people began avoiding them.

For a while it was fine – the price of lobster dropped and those of us who couldn’t afford the crustaceans on a regular basis ate our fill. But then the prices dropped even further, and the wholesalers began offering a price that was so low, it would actually cost the lobster fishers to go to work each day.

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Where Can I Find – Live Lobster

lobsterOne of the big holiday food traditions in our house is a feed of lobster on Christmas Eve. We don’t get fancy – we just cover the table with newspaper and boil up the tasty crustaceans and serve them with melted butter and some potato salad.

While the season has ended in a number of places until spring, inshore lobster fishing is still taking place in southern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Lobster fishing is always legal offshore, although purists prefer lobsters sourced closer to land, which means there is still lobster to be had – inexpensively.

Economic woes, particularly in the US, have adversely affected the Atlantic lobster fishery, both in the US and Canada. This means a decent retail price for consumers (normally about $14.99 a pound, lobster prices over the holidays dropped as low as $6.99 per pound in Toronto), but not such a great deal for lobster fishers who have the same costs to cover even though their profit is less. In Halifax this past December, lobster fishers were being offered a wholesale rate of $3 per pound and many boycotted sales to mainstream stores in favour of that traditional Nova Scotian sales method – setting up by the side of the road and selling the things out of the back of a truck. This at least allowed the fishers to charge a still inexpensive $5 per pound and to recoup their operating costs and turn a small profit.

This is not a practical option for selling lobster in Toronto, however, and we have no choice but to hand some money over to the middlemen and buy our lobster at an actual store, but with prices like these, it’s an opportunity that might not come along again for some time.

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