This Thanksgiving and holiday season--it's time to give the poor turkey a breather. It has been the culinary icon of holidays since we were all young enough to maneuver a crayon around all five fingers on construction paper and call it art.
I live in a state where the one culinary icon that symbolizes prosperity--the Maine lobster--is the one export we rely on to get entire communities through our economically stagnant winters. Like everyone else, Mainers are going on Year Three of The Great Recession. In a rural state as ours, where jobs are increasingly scare, it's scary. The boat price of lobsters historically used to be high enough to allow a lobsterman to work hard six or seven months of the year--and sustain him over the course of the winter 'til it was time to start again in the spring.
Not in the last couple of years has this boat price per lobster been all that viable. I'm told, however, that this past season was "very good" and that "no one had a reason to complain." But does that mean even a good lobstering season will carry a fisherman financially through the
That means the guy who busted his butt all summer and fall to catch lobsters is now prospecting ways to plow driveways for the winter or work part-time in factories or do any kind of odd job he can to pay the bills to get through the winter.
It's not an easy or comfortable way to make a living--never was--but lobstering for so many is like farming--it's generationally taught and generationally ingrained. Once you're brought up in this lifestyle, you stick it out--through thick and thin.
The Maine lobster is one of the most coveted, succulent products that Maine has to offer, from an industry that was conservation-minded before the concept of a "sustainable food movement" even existed. Even Red Lobster, is rolling out a new marketing angle to let their customers feel as though they are smack dab in the middle of Bar Harbor eating real Maine lobster--and not some rock lobster tails farmed in Malaysia. Though there is not one Red Lobster restaurant located in Maine, they do buy and serve Maine lobster, along with other farmed varieties. Still, if you've tasted the real thing, culled from the coldest, cleanest ocean waters in the U.S., you will know why Maine lobster has earned its incontestable reputation.
So this holiday season, I'm making the case for Maine lobster and butter over turkey and giblets. (Go for the Maine crab and Maine shrimp while you're at it.) Some of my picks for the best places to buy lobster locally as well as to export to friends and family as gifts are as follows.
Feel free to comment on The Ghost Trap's Facebook page for places you recommend as well (I'm mostly listing Midcoast Maine). Let's keep this momentum going.
Next post? Best original lobster recipes to use this holiday season.
Columns about the sub-culture of lobstering that K. Stephens has collaborated on with Maine lobstermen and guest bloggers.