If you’ve ever been a tourist in Maine, you know what our big money-making schtick is: moose, lobsters, and blueberries. If you walk into a gift shop, the magnets, t-shirts, potholders, mugs, shot glasses, and collectors’ spoons are dripping with the stuff. Whenever I happened to pass through such a shop, I was always left wondering why people would pay money for knick-knacks memorializing the beauty of bottom-feeding shellfish or over-sized, accident-causing deer. My experience of our various mascots, growing up in Maine, did not mark them as things to get excited about.
For one thing, I’ve seen maybe three moose in the course of my life. They’re not exactly as sociable as squirrels. One of these moose nearly startled my mother into crashing the car. My dad loves to go looking for moose, but then, he’s the sort of person who actually likes the adrenaline-inducing experience of ticking off a bull moose during mating season and running for his life. Moose also happen to come right under the platypus as evidence of God’s sense of humor, if you’re measuring by looks, making them an overall bizarre attraction for flatlanders (as Mainers fondly call out-of-staters, regardless of how mountainous their home terrain might be).
The appeal of blueberries is easier to understand. Having been subjected to the big, mushy, flavor-challenged berries that you can get from the grocery store, I get it. Maine blueberries are just better. As a kid, however, I had no interest in blueberries whatsoever, because we only got them if we picked our own. Picking low-bush blueberries, by rake or by hand, is painful work. It has to be done in the hottest, muggiest month of the year, without shade. And once you’ve managed to gather a large enough quantity to do anything with, you have to pick through them by hand to remove the stems and leaves that the winnowing machine leaves behind. So yes, they’re delicious, but I never thought they were really worth the work.
And then there’s lobster. The cockroach of the sea. It eats trash, and in order to eat it, you have to pull out its food-filled intestines. The meat is tasty enough, but I just don’t need to get that close to my food’s living form. Until Tuesday afternoon, I had very deliberately never taken apart a lobster in my life.
The past two days have been something like being a tourist in my own state. John and I drove up with the Friday night traffic rush out of the city so that I could spend Monday canning blueberry jam with my mother and Tuesday learning how to take lobsters apart so I can cook lobster for Mom on her birthday–things I would never have done as a kid. But I guess part of growing up and leaving home is learning to appreciate the things about home that struck you as weird and slightly disturbing.
Or something like that. The moose thing is still an utter mystery to me.
Anyway, here are a few pictures of our jam-making and lobster-shelling adventures….
Here are half of the uncleaned quarts of berries…
And here they are after cooking.
Here are the nine lobsters I willfully murdered in cold blood…
And here are their ravaged remains.
Anybody hungry for a trip to Maine yet?