July 12, 2011

A Marylander cracks a lobster

Arthropods. They are a vital part of every ecosystem, and some are mesmerizingly beautiful to behold. But when arthropods interact with me, it's eat or be eaten!

Cracking and eating whole steamed blue crab has been an occasional** pleasure for me since childhood. Though some complain that "it's too much work," I find the challenge part of the fun, and I seem to have the knack. I have been called upon to demonstrate "crab picking" for many a newcomer to the crab-cracking table. Yet, despite being a veteran consumer of crustaceans, lobster has graced my plate only a handful of times, and a whole lobster never, until my recent trip to Maine. You see, I just didn't think I liked lobster.

And I was a cynic when people told me to reserve my judgment for those local New England crustaceans. I'll have to admit, I was wrong. Fresh from the sea, steamed and served with butter, the lobster was decadent and delicious.

For someone used to cracking crabs, the differing anatomy initially had me going slow. Can I eat this? Is that the same? I am still not sure whether I committed some kind of faux pas by getting "lump lobster meat" out of the body of the lobster. But I found many similarities, including the superior flavor (and inaccessibility) of the leg meat.

Lobster and crab are both relatively low-calorie proteins. But I found that lobster really needed butter to round out the flavor, which kind of kills any claim as a healthy food. In contrast, all crab needs is a little Old Bay!

** Whole local crabs are for special occasions. They are messy, time-consuming, and a bit pricey, but more importantly they are historically overfished. Harvesting of blue crabs, notably from the Chesapeake Bay, is managed and policed, but the population growth of crabs is limited by lack of dissolved oxygen, lack of submerged aquatic vegetation, and food web pressures. The American lobster is also a managed fishery species, and faces similar pressures.

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