“Duh-ya-wanna-enta-thuh-Shaws-prize-contest?”, mumbled the teenage cashier at the local grocery store, hip cocked to one side, doing her best to make sure everyone around her knew just how cool she was, and how uncool she thinks being a grocery checkout girl is.
“Excuse me?”, I asked, having only caught about every third word amidst her smacking gum, thick Boston accent, and general disdain for all around her.
“I’m sorry, what?”
Realizing she had a foreigner in her midst, she sighed impatiently, shifted to her other hip, and began explaining it to me, slowly, as though I didn’t speak her language, which I suppose in a way, I don’t. “It’s like thuh stupidest thing ya eva heard of. You get tickets wheneva ya buy groceries and then you try and put them on a board. Maybe ya win something…but I gotta a ton ah tickets at home and I haven’t won anything yet. Dun think they give out the winning tickets until August or sumpa stupid like that. I’m a hoping to win the cahr…my Jeep only a gets like 15 miles puh gallon so I could really use it.”
“Oh…like grocery store Bingo?”, I asked, still confused, and trying to hide my smile at the honesty and intimacy she was sharing.
“Yah, like grocery stahr bingo…that’s it.”
“Well, I live in Seattle, so I don’t think the tickets will do me much good. Would you like to have my tickets though? Up your chances for the car?” I asked, still chuckling at the idea of a town wide grocery store bingo, loving this teenage girl, and wondering what the homies on Rainier would think if we imported this to the left coast.
“Nah, we associates got our own league…it’s like even stupid-aher, freaking impossible. Paper or plastic?”
Lobster Bakes and Clambakes are ubiquitous with the Northshore…right up there with grocery store bingo, pink (I mean salmon) shorts, crazy drivers, beautiful homes bought with old money, and an insatiable desire for gossip.
With July temperatures easily reaching 90, and humidity making your hair look like you never thought possible, it makes sense that casual summer events where the cooking takes place outside, and exquisite ingredients stand on their own, would be top of the list.
My brother Ben, who is one of the most generous people I know and just generally a hell of a good guy, has for multiple years hosted a Lobster Bake-Clambake-Oyster Fest of epic proportion. This year’s made all other years pale in comparison with 137 lbs of lobster caught by my Uncle Jeff, a renowned Cape Cod Lobsterman, as the headliner, and a bushel each of mussels and clams, and 150 of some of the best oysters you’ve ever had playing backup.
Lobsters were cooked all day, bacon cheddar burgers were grilled all night, Mussels Meuniere for 50 provided the perfect appetizer, steamer clams with dill, butter, and beer got gobbled up, oysters on the half shell got slurped down, and many laughs were had while enjoying Ipswich’s famous local libations of Ipswich Ale and Turkey Shore Distillery.
My only regret, and the sting was sharp this morning as I flew the 3,000 miles back across the country at 4a PST, was that I wouldn’t be having a lobster roll for lunch today.
New England Lobster Bake
- 137 lbs hard shell lobsters, boiled, and kept warm in coolers.
- To boil, bring a large pot of water to a boil over a propane boiler outside. Once boiling, plunge lobsters into the water. Cook 5 minutes for the first pound and an additional 3 minutes for each additional pound. Lobster is cooked when the shell is entirely red. Lobster will keep warm in coolers for multiple hours.
- 1 bushel steamer clams, well rinsed, and steamed with beer, dill, and butter.
- In a large pot (same as you used for the lobsters if you like), add 1 gallon light beer, 1 stick of butter, and 1 cup of dill. Bring to a boil, add the steamers, and cook until all shells are open. Transfer to a cooler to keep warm and strain the broth for dipping.
- 1 bushel mussels, well rinsed, and cooked as Mussels Meuniere
- In a large pot, add 2 bottles of white wine, 1 stick of butter, 10 shallots, finely diced, 2 cups parsley. Bring to a boil, add the mussels, and cook until all shells are open. Transfer to a cooler to keep warm and strain the broth for dipping.
- 150 oysters, schucked
- Serve on the half shell on a bed of ice, with assorted toppings such as lemon wedges, horseradish, and Tabasco.
- 10 lbs butter, melted and kept warm