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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Book Notes: For the love of the lobster roll

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  • “Lobster Rolls of New England: Seeking Sweet Summer Delight” Written by Sally Lerman, “The Lobster Gal” at lobstergal.com. Photos by Sally Lerman and Jane Shauck. Published by American Palate, a division of The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2014. 191 pages. $16.99.
    Literature has a big place in my life but so does lobster, living as I do in the New England seaside town of Rockport, Massachusetts. When someone combines books and lobster rolls into one handy package, well, she’s got my attention. And when cheery Sally Lerman, author of “Lobster Rolls in New England,” calls out my own favorite fish market and heaps on the praise, I’m hooked.
    So, segue to summertime. We look up from our 700-page novel that is, of late, hotly debated, our e-readers, our annual reprisal of the 20 greatest poems in “Leaves of Grass,” we sigh and note the sweet sounds of kids frolicking in the surf, and, joy of joys, we happily chomp down on a roll stuffed with fresh-picked lobster. Maybe there’s a bit of finely diced celery and maybe the fresh lobster is moistened with a touch of mayonnaise. Or Miracle Whip. Or butter. Or some other secret sauce. There are so many permutations of the seemingly simple lobster roll that Lerman was left with no choice. She had to start up her blog in 2010 — lobstergal.com — and then, a couple of years later, she had to write this handy and entertaining book.
    Lerman guides us through the lobster rolls of Connecticut and Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. She profiles two of Rockport’s seafood places, Roy Moore Lobster Co. and the Lobster Pool, but skips all the iconic places in Essex and Ipswich. She writes that she reviewed far more lobster rolls than she was able to describe here. Check her blog if you want to know more.
    After tasting her first delicious lobster roll at the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine, Lerman vowed to try every lobster roll in New England. Since chance dictated that her first lobster roll was also the best she was ever to eat, she started off knowing exactly what the gold standard tasted like.
    Lerman says her degree in nutrition science helped her with this project in that she could apply the scientific method to her research. She admits to the subjectivity of such an exercise, nonetheless, and provides us with her own standards.
    What makes a good lobster roll?
    Lobster meat must be fresh, not previously frozen. She likes a roll to have some tail meat. Soft shell lobster meat, she says, is universally preferred by lobstermen who say it’s sweeter and more tender because more of the seawater permeates the shell. As for “spongies,” those rubbery pieces in the tips of the claws, Lerman finds them gross. Spongies don’t belong in lobster rolls.
    Page 2 of 2 - While tradition dictates that the lobster be cradled in the V of a top-split hotdog bun, Lerman disagrees. “I feel that lobster, the king of foods, deserves a better vessel than what the boozy, late-night convenience store hot dog receives.” The desired alternative? A fresh-baked bun from one your local bakeries. If the bun is grilled, then it should be grilled in salted butter to a golden crispness.
    Use of mayonnaise should be minimal and the meat is fine cold but best warm. Lerman likes to dip her roll in a cup of melted butter “for pure perfection.” Celery is OK if it’s very finely minced and fresh from the garden, as is a very small amount of shredded lettuce.
    As for size, Lerman weighs the lobster rolls she eats and rates. A visual accounting can be deceiving since the size of the bread itself can vary. Price, another consideration, is based on seasonality, availability and the tremendous labor involved — from the harvest to the cooking to the tedious picking of meat from the thorny shells.
    Once you have your lobster roll, caught locally and crafted with generations of tradition guiding the practice, you have the added pleasure of consuming it at the point of purchase where the salt air, ocean views and sandy shores pique the stingiest of appetites.
    Enjoy! You have now tasted the antithesis of our brutal winter, now happily a memory.
    ——
    Rae Padilla Francoeur’s memoir, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” is available online or in some bookstores. Write her at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read her blog at /www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or follow her @RaeAF.

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