Apr 25, 2011

Maine Monday 1: Lobster, of course

Hello all! I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend. We spent lots of time with family and ate waaaay too much. And we covered our office with paint swatches. Still working on picking a new color for our purple paint fiasco. Stay tuned!

I'm launching a new monthly series here at Heart Maine Home --- Maine Monday! Besides my family, friends and house, my home state is one of my big loves -- I mean, it's even in the title of my blog, so I'm sure you already knew that. :) The last Monday of every month, I'm going to feature something I love about Maine, and do my best to tie in some decor/design-related elements as well.

First up, we have

         The iconic Maine lobster...

When people "from away" (our endearing term for non-locals) think of Maine, the first thing that usually springs to mind is lobster, so of course I had to kick off this series with a little about homarus americanus -- the American, or Maine, lobster.

Fun facts about lobster:

The largest lobster ever recorded was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia and weighed more than 44 pounds!

   Lobsters can live up to 50 years.

Lobsters swim backwards.

   Lobster was so common in colonial New England that it was considered a 
   poor man's food.

Lobsters only turn red when cooked. Alive, they're usually a mottled brown-green-orange, but occasionally lobstermen haul in a more rare color, like bright red or blue.

   Lobster is actually really healthy for you, and has fewer calories than 
   chicken (not including, of course, all the butter you dip it in!)

People generally talk about two kinds of lobsters, hard- or soft-shelled, which is based on how long it's been since the lobster molted its shell. If you order Maine lobster from out of state, you're probably eating hard-shell, since they're tougher and can survive being shipped better than soft-shell lobster. If you come to Maine in the summer and order lobster, you're likely eating soft-shell. What's better? Mainers generally prefer soft-shell and say the meat has a sweeter taste. But hard-shell lobsters generally have more meat in them, meaning you get more for your money.

And no, us Mainers don't eat lobster all the time -- it's still fairly expensive here, so it's usually enjoyed as a special treat or at a get-together. The hubs and I usually eat it a few times a year, mostly in the summer or fall.

I actually didn't like lobster until I was an adult -- something about breaking the shell and picking the meat out totally grossed me out as a kid. My favorite way to eat it is still as a lobster roll. The hubs and I like driving out to this lobster shack on Orrs Island, where they have great lobster rolls and a deck on the water where you can sit, eat and enjoy the view.

Nom nom

Ahhhh, perfection

One summer when I was in college, I did a marketing internship at a startup lobster company. Part of my job was to write content for the website, and my boss suggested I spend a day on the water with some of the lobstermen who supplied the company to write profiles about them. 

I'd never been on a lobster boat before, and I soon learned how hard lobstering was. Though the lobstermen have a pulley system that helps them haul the traps out of the water, you still need lots of strength to yank them onto the boat (I totally failed at it).

Each lobster has to be measured to make sure it's the right size. Another fun fact: in Maine, there's not only a minimum size but a maximum size, so the largest lobsters -- likely big ol' fertile males -- are thrown back so they can keep knocking up lots of lady lobsters, helping keep the fishery sustainable. Females with eggs are also thrown back.

The lobsterman showing me how to properly measure the lobster. The pink manicure and notebook coming out of the back pocket are optional.

Then, the keepers are banded -- elastic bands are put around their claws to keep them from snapping you. This was my job, and let me tell you, it was not easy to put bands around an angry lobster, even with the nifty little tool! Luckily I came home with all my fingers.

Me with a woman from the Maine Lobster Promotion Council who came along with us. I can't remember her name!

The gorgeous Owls Head, Maine

There's lots of Maine- and New England-themed decor centered around the lobster, but it can be a little kitschy.

Is that a crab in there?? Fail.

But there are some non-tacky ways to use lobster in decor. I love this vintage Guinness poster. You can see it in F & S's basement at Our Little Beehive.

It's not uncommon to see lobster buoys hanging outside fishing shacks and sheds along the coast, and a row of them along a shed or garage is colorful and effortless. Google lobster buoy and you'll find plenty of places to buy them, both new and used. I'd love to hang a couple weather-beaten ones on our shed.

As I mentioned before, a sun-bleached lobster claw is included in my seashell Mason jar display.

Designer Thomas Paul has a couple lobster pillows that I'm really digging, but they are a tad pricey, at least for this frugal gal. 

My favorite? Home goods made out of recycled lobster and other shells. You can find flatware with shell handles, coasters, travel mugs and Christmas tree ornaments. Pretty, unique and green.

I'll leave you with a photo of the lobster trap Christmas tree built every year in Rockland. The hubs and I went one year for the lighting, and it's crazy cool to see. It's decorated with lights, swags of greenery and lobster buoys. And of course a big light-up lobster on the top. 

I hope you enjoyed this first edition of Maine Monday! 

DISCLAIMER: I hope none of this lobster talk offended anyone. I recognize that to some people, lobster conjures up images of pots of boiling water and questions regarding animal cruelty. If you find yourself objecting to the idea of lobster because of this, I hope you reconsider. Lobster, like many other types of New England seafood, is one of the last free-range food sources left in our country. It's fished sustainably, especially here in Maine because of the maximum size limit, and by local fishermen, not massive or foreign commercial fishing boats. If you're especially concerned with where your food comes from, lobster and other locally caught (depending on where you live!) seafood are a good choice. I don't have any ties to the state's lobster industry -- all of these ideas are my own and shared with you because I appreciate Maine's traditional industries, like lobstering.

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