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In an attempt to silence the alarm, I stood on a chair and fanned one of the noisy white hexagons with a Bon AppeŽtit magazine opened to a recipe I thought I could handle, and wondered what I would eventually end up serving. Microwaving a pork roast was indeed as "ridiculous" as my mother had stated when I called her to collaborate (receive advice) on my dinner party menu.
A factor in this sudden domestic exercise of culinary art and adjunct cleaning spree was that tonight I would get to know my husbands. That's right, plural, two of them. We were not actually
married yet, the three of us, but if Rachel Harris was right, I would have to marry both of the brothers from New Jersey who now visited the Island, as they were, she said, inseparable. Dinner
would not be a double date, as I had no intention of including another single female. Available men only, the odds would be stacked in my favor. This would be fun.
First impressions were important, I thought, as I opened windows to clear the smoke from the kitchen. Tricking the men into believing me to be a good cook would be helpful. I stood gazing
into the refrigerator, as if something may have appeared since the last time I looked. I searched my mother's cupboards for an inspirational ingredient. Capers, crystallized ginger, eleven different vinegars, seven mustards, polenta, wild rice, couscous, risotto, and pastas I did not recognize; I was certainly well stocked. If only I knew what to do with it all. Canned chipotles, ancho chili powder, four different cumins, two cilantros, a jar of Habaneros, tamarind
concentrate; I wondered if Mom had been expecting a guest appearance by a chef like Bobby Flay. Hmmm ...maybe I would boil some lobster. It's hard to screw up lobster, I thought.
Dating is tough on the Island. What do we do after dinner?
I could take the guys out to jack deer with the one-million-candlepower spotlight that plugs into my truck's cigarette lighter.
No, Annie Oakley never married, did she? Some men might not cotton to a woman armed with a loaded gun on the first date. Television was not an option. Television at my folks' place was
more of a workout than it was entertaining. Yes we have TV. No we do not have reception. Thirty minutes of Jeopardy! would leave us with eyestrain and impaired hearing.
Maybe I should borrow a video from Ben, I thought, as I rummaged through my father's tools for a pipe wrench with which to shuffle propane bottles. Ben knew firsthand the scarcity of dates on the Island and would be helpful in choosing a film that might be a mood-setter. A movie would be appropriate for a first date, I thought. Would I sit between the two men on the couch? No movie, I concluded.
Making love with two men at the same time has never been one of my sexual fantasies. Hadn't I read somewhere that forty-year-old women are in their sexual prime? Probably written by a
forty-year-old woman, I thought, and smiled as I pulled the proper wrench from under a pair of Dad's gloves. My sex life had been sporadic at best.
After twenty minutes of leaning on and beating upon the end of the pipe wrench and swearing at "the idiot" who had tightened the connection between regulator and bottle, I remembered that
propane connections are reverse threaded. So much for "righty-tighty, lefty-loosy." "And this," I said through teeth gritted in pain as the 100-pound bottle came to rest on my toes, "is why God made men." I could definitely use two.
Maybe I was worrying too much about what to do on the date. I realized that I was far too busy to be spending time or energy wooing men. I still had four hundred traps in the water needing to be brought ashore, and it did not appear that my father would be returning to the Island soon. Aha! Why had I not thought of this earlier? I could track down the brothers from New Jersey right now and generously offer to show them a bit of the Maine lobster industry. I could do them the favor of allowing them to bring a load of traps in with me. We could spend all afternoon getting to know one another (working) and then have fresh lobster for dinner. If I really liked them I would attempt my mother's lobster casserole. If I could pull off the casserole, it would be worthy of at least two proposals, I surmised. I ran into the house to phone my mother for the recipe.
"Wow, you must be very fond of them," my mother remarked at the request. I did not bother sharing with my mother that since I hadn't yet met them I was merely anticipating the fondness; she is weird about giving out recipes. At this point I was taking for granted the men's acceptance of my yet-to-be-delivered invitation. Although my mother did not come right out and say it, she was not too excited about having me in her kitchen while she was away having cancer treatments.
I scribbled as she recited. "I've never made this for less than six, so you'll have to cut it down. Cook and pick twelve lobsters, or sixteen if they are very soft. Linda, do not boil lobster in my large Le Creuset." Oh, you mean the one in the sink? The one that I have been soaking for two days to get the burned spaghetti out of? The one that I may have to take to Billings' to be sand-blasted? "In fact, do not use abrasives on any of my good pots and pans. I told you that before, right?" Oh, you mean like scraping with a metal spatula? Too late. Somewhere, through all of the marching orders and in the midst of many asides, I managed to pull a list of ingredients from my tight-jawed mother, but had to guess at amounts and temperatures. She was certainly less than forthcoming. The following is what I ended up with, but lacked the confidence to actually try by the time my mother was done with me:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter, and blend flour, cooking over low heat. Add cream and stir until thick. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks. Add onions, Madeira, parsley, and other
seasonings. Add lobster meat that you have previously sauteŽed in butter. Pour into large casserole dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese. Place dollops of butter on top and bake uncovered until you think it's done (20 minutes at 400 degrees).
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 8 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups light cream
- A couple of egg yolks
- 1 handful of minced onion
- 1 generous splash Madeira
- A little minced fresh parsley
- Some salt
- Some pepper
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 good dash cayenne pepper
- 12 cups lobster meat, sauteŽed
- 4 cups fresh bread crumbs
- Parmesan cheese
I would save this experiment for another night, I thought, as I hung up the phone. Tonight I would serve the foolproof and ever popular boiled lobster, the staple of my summer diet. I could boil
a lobster with the best of 'em. My folks and I had eaten lobster once or twice a week all summer-boiled, sauteŽed, over pasta, in casseroles and omelets. Lobster is an inexpensive meal if you catch them yourself, and most fishermen enjoy the fruits of their labor while the price is low. I know of an Island fisherman who is allergic to lobster and feel sorry for him every time I indulge. Many things taste like chicken but nothing tastes like lobster.
Excerpted from THE LOBSTER CHRONICLES by Linda Greenlaw. Copyright © 2002 by Linda Greenlaw. All rights reserved.