The lobster population in the coastal waters of Maine continues to swell, according to a story in The New York Times today. Ecologists and concerned parties speaking out on behalf of waterman have reason for concern, but for the rest of us, it's time we do our part and break out the mallets.
Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I wasn't much of a lobster guy. Blue crabs were relatively cheap and abundant. We didn't eat them because they were "local," we ate them because they came out of the water, just over there. If you were a rookie or a "chicken-necker" you caught your own off a pier. Those who wanted a feast could go to the waterfront crab shacks and buy a bushel of jimmies for $60 or so. If you had a boat and a trotline, you could eat like a king. But lobsters, while available, just weren't our thing.
It was while visiting my aunt in Massachusetts that I first encountered the scarlet red crustacean. Armed with a cracker and protected by the thin veneer of a plastic bib, I set to the task. It was a mess. And with prices back in the '80's, a bit of a luxury.
Lobster, up until the end of the 19th century, used to be common man's food, but as popularity increased so did its price. Over-fishing didn't help matters, either. High prices lead lobster to be perceived as a celebratory item, precisely how my meal was framed in that Cape Cod seafood shack.
But when the economy falters and demand wanes, prices for luxury goods fall. When cod, the natural predator of young lobsters, are over-fished, lobster populations swell. When Icelandic banks that finance Canadian processing plants go bust, so do lobster prices. In 2009, lobsters were cheaper than hot dogs, according to CNN.
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If you're a lobster fan, it's time to get nuts. I'm all over this lobster roll at Rex's Seafood Shack.