“Can you use 20 leftover cooked lobsters?” Old man Charlie Conrad yelled out the window of the Driftwood Inn in the 1990s. (He was such a prankster—every time he saw our car packed with four kids and a dog and the trunk exploding, he’d offer to stay one more free day.)
When I asked him how much for the lobsters, he said, “A dollar each.”
So I sent my husband off to watch the kids play (him groaning before the nine hour plus drive home) and went back to my freshly cleaned cottage and got out the lobster crackers, kettle, bowl and mayo we were left with some bread
I couldn’t work fast enough to get the chilled sweetmeat home for sandwiches, as well as a bunch of leftovers. With 3-inch sandwiches full of lobster, our kids moaned, “Oh, we’re so tired of lobster,” and I told them they looked like rich spoiled brats and that they’d want a Bailey’s Island lobster one day.
Well, good old Charlie is long gone and the price of lobster has gone up. For years we’ve bought up to 20 of these alive at Glen’s in Mackerel Cove, packed in a cooler with ice, seaweed and newspaper. Often we would hear the creatures scrambling to get out and when a beady eye looked up, our kids would scream in unison as the boy behind him fell to the floor.
For over 40 years we’ve been traveling overnight from Philadelphia to Inn and you learn to work smarter, not harder. You learn that after a long trip, the last thing you want to do is get out a big pot of water to boil lobster when everyone is hungry and tired, and loads of laundry are staring at you.
So I got smarter. Now we buy lobster at Glen’s lobster shack, sitting on a pier in Mackerel Cove where the stench of the bait is tolerated, just to bring home the freshest lobster at the best price ever, while supporting local lobstermen, then back to cooking lobster at our cottage and pick the meat to put in bags of half and half as my friend Bindy suggested to keep them creamy, not freezer burnt. In the fridge they go, our stock for our family’s traditional Thanksgiving appetizer, Seafood Coquille St. Jacques.
In 1954, my mother and father often made trips to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, as part of his government business, and the wonderful restaurant nearby was called the Shadowbrook Inn. On one visit they were served Coquille (French for “shell”), and Mom was smitten and asked for the recipe. When he refused, she showed her Irish stubbornness and bribed the waiter with a $5 tip to take it; thankfully she did and we’ve been enjoying it ever since.
But in Philly in the 50s and 60s, lobster was nowhere to be found except for a frozen South African lobster tail. I can still hear my mom cutting that tail off with a toothpick until it cracked and then she boiled it to death, but hey, it was our version of lobster. She was very proud of her dish and friends and family loved it and the story.
How I wish she knew that today, beautiful fresh Maine lobster nurtures this memory as a delicious tradition of our family. Even our little grandchildren ask for the “wobster” every year, and I smile as they remove the lobster pieces from their high chair trays.
Thank you, lobstermen, for harvesting and working so hard to give us your trap contents, for paying license fees, bait fees, fuel fees. You can get tired of lobster up there, but trust me, we’ll never buy a lobster from an overpriced supermarket tank again.
We know the price of your boat is fair and worthy of the price you agree on. And if you ever come to Philly, be sure to get one of our famous steaks!
Mom’s recipe is below:
Betty’s Seafood Coquille St. Jacques – Recipe | Cooks.com
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