The True Flavor of Summer

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The internet connection here is running at the rate of molasses in January – we’re lucky right now if we can get Google to load, let alone anything more complicated.  I am pretty sure that the Inn’s router needs a solid reboot, but I find there is minimal overlap in the skill set between “System Administrator” and “Hospitality Guru”.  There is, however, a useful overlap in the skill set between “System Administrator” and “Cabana Boy” as we found when we requested some assistance from the innkeeper in re: molasses connection speed.  To our utter delight, the person who showed up to provide the assistance was, in fact, our Cabana Boy from yesterday’s wine-and-cheese hour.  He’s endlessly cheerful, entirely competent, Asian, and (probably) gay.  We love him.  He arrived independently at the conclusion that the router needs a reboot, and when last seen, was heading off with the Master Plan of Explaining This to the Innkeeper.  Due to Job Skill Conflict #1, above, he was not optimistic about the prospects, and lo – we are still working at a crawl.

This is an issue for several reasons: Roy requires access to ESPN.com (including MLB.com and NHL.com) on a half-hourly basis to satisfy his bottomless need for up-to-date scores and news of various athletic competitions, I need access to wordpress to upload my travelogues, but – primarily – the weather is typically unsettled and any excursion (for the sensible person) involves checking the recent forecast and radar as a primary element of the preparation.

Based on several years’ prior experience, I’d arrived at the conclusion that Provincetown has two kinds of weather: overcast and dry, and overcast and raining.  This morning, however, we scored HUGE and had sun.  We racked up the bikes and took them over to the paved bike trails in the Provincelands dunes, and put in 8 miles over the hills and out to the beach.  This was such a roaring success – and the sun was still out – that we ran the bikes back to the Inn and traded them for a pair of swim trunks (on Roy’s part) and a camera bag (on mine).  The sluggish internet connection prevents me from sharing my Jewels of the Photographic Arts at this time, but they’ll be coming right up as soon as we get home.  The weather was nothing short of smashing. After we’d had our fill of Race Point, we made a side trip to Herring Cove and took a hike to see the Race Point Light (which is, oddly enough, not really visible from Race Point beach).  The Cape is shaped like a little kid “making a muscle”, and Race Point is at the position of the top set of knuckles in that image.  Provincetown, loosely speaking, is located on the curled-up fingers off that fist.

For lunch, Roy exercised one of his Super Powers and steered us directly to the only establishment in town that I’ve seen where women outnumber men by a significant margin.  There wasn’t really any indication from the outside, but as soon as we walked in, it became clear that the proprietor has a Vital Interest in the Arts, and that the assembled arts had the common theme of “boobiness”.  It was fascinating to see the myriad forms and materials in which this theme was executed. Even better were the fish tacos, and the view of the Cape Cod Light out of the back of the restaurant.

Dinner involved a trip to The Lobster Pot, an establishment in the time-warp: 1975.  In the perfect world, where the internet connection isn’t operating at 1990 speeds, this section would include the picture of the Neon Glory that is The Lobster Pot that I took the evening.  That will, however, also have to wait.  A full and accurate description of The Lobster Pot is…impossible.  I can tell you about the lurid neon signage in the front.  I can tell you about how the main entrance to the building looks like the service corridor from the kitchen to the dumpsters.  I can tell you about how the dining room opens out from this narrow hallway into a broad expanse of Classic Dark Wood Paneling. I can tell you about the menu – which is both narrow and enormous, at the same time.  But the only hope I have of conveying the true essence of this place is to tell you that the ambient music that fills the heavy wood-paneled dining room is The Carpenters “Greatest Hits”.  And if it’s not The Carpenters, it’s turgid ballads from Barbara Streisand.  I’d call it “retro” except that “retro” implies that it has ever been anything else, which I very much doubt.

And the food? Is absolutely traditional, and excellent (within that context).  This is not the spot for your imaginative Asian-inspired fish glazes.  This is not the spot for your teepee of curly shoestring sweet potatoes.  This is not the spot for your wasabi-dusted sesame-encrusted seared tuna.

This is, however, the spot for…well…Lobster.  It being The Lobster Pot, and all.  And they do provide a very solid range of extremely well-executed traditional fish dishes, and a superb clam chowder.  None of which I was interested in, particularly, because of Rule 2.  Rule 1, as I mentioned yesterday, is “Eat Wellfleet Oysters in Wellfleet”.  Rule 2 is “Eat Lobsters Only When You Can See The Traps”.  If I can’t look out a window, even if it means looking down a street, or down three stories, and see those brightly-striped buoys bobbing about in the surf, it’s not a place where I’m going to be eating lobsters.

The first time I tried lobster, I didn’t know Rule 2.  I had Lobster Thermidor in San Diego.  Don’t ask.  From this experience, I contrived Rule 2a: “I Don’t Like Lobster”.  Rule 2a lasted until Roy took me up to Acadia for my birthday years ago, and we found ourselves at The Seafood Ketch (bada-bing) in Bass Harbor, and I’m thinking about the flounder.  Roy shot me a look of naked scorn and said “Order the lobster.”  I explained Rule 2a to him, and how it came about, and his prior look of naked scorn was nothing to the one he yielded upon hearing that I’d been eating lobster in San Diego.

“It’s not the same in Maine,” he said. “Order the lobster.”

What can you do?  I succumbed to the Force of his Personality, and I can’t say I was sorry.  That’s when Rule 2b “Eat Lobsters Only In Maine” was born.

Rule 2b lasted until our first trip to P-town (that’s Provincetown, for you benighted rustics out there), where we ran across The Lobster Pot, decided to hit it for dinner, and I found myself considering the haddock.

“You must be kidding me,” Roy said. “Order the lobster.”

I explained about Rule 2b, and got a look of truly withering scorn.

“Massachusetts has a reputation world-wide for shellfish, especially lobsters.  This is the same water as there is up in Maine.  They’re catching the lobsters right out there in the Bay.  Legal Seafoods, from Boston, made a whole business out of lobsters,” He said.  “Order the lobster.”

And so I did.

Now, I confess to a few ethical qualms about eating lobsters.  I’m not a vegetarian or anything close – my body chemistry goes entirely out of whack if I try to exist on a vegetarian diet.  You know it’s bad when your acupuncturist is telling you “Eat more red meat.”

But – even though I enjoy hamburgers, steaks, goat curries, you name it – I never forget that an animal died in the making of the meal.  This doesn’t stop me, because I don’t feel guilty about it…but I do feel responsible.  And this is true when I’m ordering a burger at McDonalds, and it’s true when I buy chicken parts at the grocer, but it is especially true when I eat a lobster.

Why?

Because the cow that provided that hamburger meat was killed two weeks and eight states away (or however many of each).  The chickens that provided the leg quarters departed this vale of mortal tears in a big barn in Vermont.

But the lobster?

It’s been killed for me.  It was alive, battling the other lobsters in the tank full of seawater being pumped from the bay, with giant rubber bands on its claws to keep it from killing those other lobsters prematurely, and it was alive until 10 minutes ago, and the event that triggered its transition from Alive to Dead was me telling the waiter “I’d like the pound-and-a-quarter one please.”

I know some people like to actually go pick their lobster out of the tank but I can’t do that.  I don’t have enough of the Executioner in my bones to do that.  It’s bad enough that I’m signing the Death Warrant.

But I don’t feel guilty, as I said.  I do feel responsible.  And I think that my responsibility to that lobster is the same as my responsibility to the cows and the chickens:  Don’t Take Them For Granted.  Make the best effort to do business with people who treat the animals humanely in life, and offer them a quick and merciful death.  And when the animal shows up on my plate, give thanks for it, thank its spirit, than the spirit of the universe who oversees the cycle of life.

And eat it all.

I can’t “leave over” meat from an animal that was killed entirely for my dining pleasure.  I consider it a Moral Obligation to eat every last bit of that, and to maintain a spirit of profound gratitude throughout.

Fortunately, this is very easy to do when you are eating excruciatingly fresh lobster.

I still recall the first trip to The Lobster Pot – my second “real” lobster ever – the waitress paused by our table and regarded the…thoroughness…of my approach to the lobster with awe. “That’s amazing” she said.

I’m still every bit as thorough…simply…more…experienced.  Every year, I think “This will be the year I dispense with the disposable plastic bib.”  Every year, I’m persuaded that it might be that year, but much better to use the bib Just In Case.  Every year, I have cause to think “Thank heavens I didn’t try to go without that bib.”

This time, I went one further, and ordered the Clambake.  Now, this Clambake doesn’t hold a candle to the one we had in Maine, but it’s my firm opinion that any meal that must be traveled to in a boat is stochastically dominant over any meal that doesn’t require the boat.  And that Maine clambake…well…it’s really just not fair to anything else to try to compare it.  So I won’t.  The Maine clambake aside, then, The Lobster Pot clambake was superb.  There was some bread, and some salad, and some Cape Cod amber ale – because beer is really the only thing to consume with crustaceans – and there was an ear of corn, a dish of roasted rosemary potatoes, a half-dozen steamers, and the pound-and-a-quarter lobster.  I dismissed the potatoes to Roy because I knew I didn’t have the capacity for them, and set to demolishing the corn and the steamers first.  Had to let the lobster cool off a bit, you know.

That’s when I realized it.  The seasons have flavors here like they never did in Texas.  Spring tastes like asparagus out of the neighbor’s garden, and morel mushrooms sautéed in butter, and fiddleheads tossed with pasta.  Fall tastes like apples and every kind of winter squash.

And summer? It tastes like corn, and steamers, and lobster meat dragged through drawn butter with fresh lemon squeezed in.  And it smells like beer and foil-wrapped wet wipes.  And salt air, and the rain on pavement.  And sweaty horses, but that’s another story.

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About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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