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.

As I pulled the meat from the lobsters, Greg was dispatched to the store for buns and side dishes. Potato salad is a typical accompaniment, but he opted for that neon green coleslaw. Acceptable. Potato chips – fine. He brought me back a thick-crusted white bun, possibly of Portuguese or French origin – the kind of thing I’d expect a Vietnamese bahn mi to come on. The ideal bun for a lobster roll is soft, like a hotdog bun. Most of the ones I’ve ever had down home are served in the squarish hot dog buns with the slit cut in the top as opposed to the side. No matter – we’re making the cosmopolitan version, okay?

Then I made the mistake of asking Greg, “How do you like your lobster meat prepared?”

As I mentioned, no one can seem to agree on what goes with the lobster in a lobster roll. Some people make theirs with just the lobster meat and the bun, maybe some salt and pepper. I’ve also seen the same combination with a drizzle of butter. More complicated – and we’re getting into potentially sacrilegious territory here – is a slather of mayonnaise on the bun before the lobster is added, and the full monty is to take the lobster meat and toss it with a dollop of mayo.

“Well,” Greg says, “I usually have it salad style, with some chopped onion and celery.”

I make a goggled faced and manage a “whaaaatttt????”

“Celery and onion? Usually?? What is this “usually’?” I demand to know. “We’ve been together for 16 years… I’ve never made lobster rolls. How can you have a ‘usual’?”

“Well, it’s how my Mom and Grandma make it.”

Ah. Mom and Grandma. Celery and onion. Shutthefrontdoor. I will compromise and mix the lobster up with some mayo, although I am more of a slather on the bread kind of girl myself. But there is no way I am putting celery and onion on that lobster. No fucking way.

As I’m plating stuff we decide that lobster rolls really do need a soda to go with – we still have to strive for some level of authenticity, even if we’re not getting ocean breezes and the screech of seagulls overhead. So Greg goes back out to the store for a bottle of Pepsi, because despite the fact that our idea of the perfect lobster roll is so divergent that we might eventually have to divorce, we can both agree on the fact that only Pepsi will do for this classic Maritime treat.