A Lobster Affair in Midcoast Maine
A regular visitor recalls his on-again, off-again love affair with lobster while visiting Midcoast Maine with his family.
By Crai S. Bower
As a travel writer, I rarely visit the same place twice. The exception is my family’s annual trip from our home in Seattle to stay with my in-laws in Midcoast Maine, where I balance mudroom-turned-studio workdays with jaunts to Popham Beach, fishing on the Kennebec River, and forays into Bath and Portland. And, at some point during my month stay, without exception, I grow tired of eating lobster.
I wish I could claim it was the boiling-alive factor or even that green, wasabi-like stuff near the tail that compels me to forgo Maine’s most classic delicacy, but I’d be lying. True, explaining to my 3-year-old that the algae green and brown playmates with the funny fan tails he had shepherded across the floor not 12 minutes ago now stare at us in their fire engine red suits is always a tough conversation, but even parental admission of crustacean cruelty fails to inform my decision.
It always starts innocently enough. That first week, we go clamming at low tide, tubing on the river, and exploring the Civil War–era Fort Popham. Inevitably, one or more of these activities is bookended by late lunch at Spinney’s, where my first lobster date is set with a pound-and-a-half softshell for me and me alone. It tastes so vividly delicious – that first taste of rich meat dipped in deep yellow butter, tempered just so by the slightest splash of lemon.
Our East Coast friends arrive a couple days later, celebrated with a boat trip up the Back River to Five Islands Lobster Co. for lobster rolls. Between voracious bites, we suck down bottles of Sam Adams while watching local lobstermen bait their traps and come in with their catch.
On the eve of our friends’ departure, we launch a true lobster feed of our own, every plate aflame with lobster, corn on the cob, and French bread. My in-laws have this meal down to a science – most notably, only throwing such a feast on Tuesday nights since Wednesday is garbage day. (It took just one such event staged on a Saturday, followed by four long days of waiting – and smelling – for the refuse truck to show to resolve them of that.)
And then suddenly, with the urgency of the summer’s first claw crack, I can no more drag another piece of lobster meat through drawn butter than I can lounge with the mosquitoes on the deck after sunset. I understand the reactions I receive, how my in-laws and restaurant waiters look at me a little sideways when I pass on lobster from then on. After all, it’s the last thing they expect out of any tourist, let alone one from the West Coast. But I’m resigned to the fact that whether dining on lobster or peanut butter and jelly slathered on Wonder Bread, too much of anything leads to indifference. With that, I declare my personal lobster foray “closed for the season.”