Foolery's comment: "I've always thought that I'd like lobster that way -- the way the locals do it, in big pots with dogs and cats and kids running around, and lots of beer and salt and BUTTER. As it is, I won't order it in a restaurant, and I've never been impressed when I did. But your way looks like a hoot..."
My (of course) long-winded reply: Most restaurants autoclave their lobsters, which is a fine way to cook one in a hurry...and ruin it. We steam them - an inch or two of water in the pot and sea salt. And more sea salt. And...ummm...more sea salt. Even better is when you can get water from the actual ocean, but for some reason that's in short supply in our neck of Georgia. Hmm. We boil the water before putting our live (and I do mean live) critters in there for a lovely sauna.
They're done when you can tug one of the feelers (I know they're antennae, but I grew up calling them feelers and it stuck) off without too much effort, and of course they're that lobster orangey-red.
Some folks put bay leaves and all sorts of other nonsense in their water, but we're simple. When we cook! We're simple when we cook!
When I was a kid, we'd get them off the dock from the boat that just brought them in - short of plucking them from the sea floor yourself and dining right away, that's as fresh as they get. The same for clams. I didn't realize until I moved to Georgia that Steamers were a very local thing. You can't get them here. I can't even find a place to order them without calling Maine. Most of the time, I am offered little-necks or cherrystones instead. Those aren't steamers. Ipswitch clams are steamers. Sigh. I can't get too upset with the local fishmongers - they have to fly most everything in and most of them are only really familiar with the common salt-water fishes and freshwater varieties.
We'd have clam boils at my grandparent's house. They'd get the old cast iron stove going (this was always fun in the summer) and set the special clam cookin' pot-apparatus-thingie up with layers of clams, potatoes, chouricco (yes, it's really pronounced shehdeese)(it's a yummy, hot Portuguese sausage and you can usually get it at Publix)(in case you were wondering) and corn, and a pot with butter melting to one side. Y'all...words can't describe...sniff...
When it was all cooked, we'd dish it into a bowl, a bit of everything, and pour some of the pot broth into one cup and melted butter into another, then go to town.
You winkle the clam out of its (now open or don't eat it) shell, peel off the turtle neck, dip into the broth to get any rogue sand off it, then into the butter and...oh, my...'scuse me...
Before I could manage to clean my own clams and snarf them down, my family had to take turns doing it for me. I'd eat them so fast, they couldn't keep up. I'd sit there with butter dripping down my chin, flecks of corn stuck in my eyebrow, stuffed to the gills and in seventh heaven - clams were possibly my favorite dineer when I was a kid. Mmm. I can still eat up a passel of clams in a hurry.
We always got our corn from Cole Walker's roadside stand in Little Compton. His patch of earth produced the finest sweet corn anywhere, yes it did. His strawberries were lovely, too - sweet little jewels bursting with earth, sun, rain, and juicy goodness. Halved and lightly sugared in the afternooon, served that evening with a bit of heavy cream...oh, dear Gods...
I was spoiled. I lived where we could get these things, if not cheaply then at least not at inland prices, and in plentiful amounts. There was always someone hauling in a load of something fresh and wonderful from the water, and if you had the right friends you got a terrific deal - sometimes even trading one thing for another. You know...some of my swordfish for some of your tuna. Some of my lobsters for some of your clams. Some of what I grew in my garden or butchered from my farm for some of whatever you have to offer. There were times when I dug my vegetables right out of the ground and probably knew the cow, lamb, pig, or other beastie we were eating that night. Some folks find that horrifying, but I think it's nice to know
And Foolery, you're right - the finest way to enjoy these gifts from the water is to do so with friends and family crowding around, glasses of wine or bottles of beer in hand, laughing and chattering and filling the house with steam, noise, and general congeniality. Never mind the bibs, forks, knives, or spoons - this is food to be eaten like cave people, with the hands and teeth and some big stones (or, in our case, lobster crackers). If you don't get messy, you didn't enjoy it enough. Which reminds me...umm...I may need to clean the ceiling in the dining room. And the light fixture. And the glass case. Tomorrow.
Lobster in restaurants isn't worth it, to me. It always seems more about pretension, prestige, or impressing others wth one's mad lobster-eating skillz, yo, than about honoring the crustacean. I like lobster bisque, lobster ravioli, lobster dip and whatnot and might order those things, but a whole one? Nah. I'd rather not have a critical audience or potential shelling victims when I'm getting into one of those, and consuming a disapointing lobster is just a shame.
Thanks for the post fodder, Foolery!