Book Review — Best Maine Lobster Rolls

Best Maine Lobster Rolls by Joe Ricchio, Virginia M. Wright

Best Maine Lobster Rolls
Kevin Joe Ricchio, Virginia M. Wright
Down East Books, 2018

First off, let me state that, hailing from Nova Scotia, I am obliged to dispute all so-called “factual” information in this book with regards to the origin of the lobster roll. Or where the best ones might come from. What I will concede is that something that was an old favourite of people along the Atlantic coast — of both the United States and Canada — has soared in popularity over the past decade or so. And in Maine, that has been a boon, both for existing seafood restaurants and as an opportunity for new places to open.

Best Maine Lobster Rolls starts out with a chapter of quotes from both locals and noted food writers on the origins of the dish and, more importantly, exactly what goes into it. This is a point of great debate, relating to pretty much every ingredient (of which there should be only: split-top bun, lobster, mayo, and salt and pepper… I know because I have debated this before), and has become a way for lobster roll sellers to differentiate themselves. Round roll? Lettuce? Brioche? The chart tracking traditional to outlandish ingredients is charming – and correct. No to puff pastry. No to avocado.

If you put lettuce anywhere near my f*cking lobster roll, I’ll just give it back.

The book goes on to offer a directory of select Maine lobster roll joints with a written bio for each place, plus a sidebar indicating the style of bun, how the meat is prepared, the mix (any other ingredients, acceptable or verboten), and the scene, which includes a description of the locale, decor, and service. There’s also a large collection of short one-paragraph reviews of other places, because apparently you can’t spit in Maine without hitting a lobster roll stand.

Finally, there’s a selection of recipes — some traditional, some verging on sacrilegious — from various lobster roll purveyors, as well as recipes for accompaniments like chowder, slaw, lobster salad, blueberry pie, and gin fizz. In Nova Scotia, the only acceptable accompaniment to a lobster roll is a Pepsi, but as a gin drinker, Ill let this pass and will even give it a try.

Throughout, Best Main Lobster Rolls is filled with absolutely gorgeous photos of so many different lobster rolls, but also of local scenery, breath-taking ocean views, lobster shacks, and happy people eating lobster.

As a Maritimer, I’ll debate the definition of “best” lobster roll, and defend my provincial/national rights to the lobster roll to my last breath, but I’ll concede that the lobster shacks in Maine are turning out some mighty fine looking sandwiches. And while you can certainly now get lobster rolls right across North America, it’s an absolute truth that lobster rolls always taste better with the tang of salty ocean air, a view of the grey Atlantic pounding against some jagged rocks, and the squawk of seagulls overhead. So this summer, why not get yourself to Maine (or Nova Scotia or PEI) and stuff yourself silly with tasty, delicious lobster rolls?

With thanks to Down East Books and NetGalley, this book was reviewed from an Advance Reader Copy and may not include exactly the same content or format when published.

Those Who Like It… Have Probably Bought Into the Marketing Scheme

I am, in terms of family history and genealogy, a bit of a mutt. The name Kirby, derived from Kerr, and meaning “by the Kerr”; Kerr being a copse or wood, arrived in England with the Norman invasion and spread to most parts of England, Scotland and even Ireland. The Kirbys have both English and Irish tartans and crests. As far as I know, my family, way way back, came from northern England, around Yorkshire, but no one in our family has ever traced the tree back that far to say for sure. (There’s also a story that gets told when family members have had a bit too much to drink that links us to pirates but the veracity of this yarn is unproven. Still.. yarr!)

In any case, I spent my youth not really feeling as if I had a “culture” per se. Which was alright growing up in Nova Scotia, since most of us were pasty anglo-saxons who had little clue as to what part of the Isles we came from.

It wasn’t until I was older, and when someone else pointed it out as a positive trait, that I looked to my Nova Scotian upbringing as part of my own “culture”.

Living in Toronto, surrounded by ethnic groups where people kept close ties to the motherland and continued to live within their culture (through religion, food, music and even dress), I felt a little lost. Embracing my Nova Scotian upbringing was a anchor for me in a sea of otherness.

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