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Monday, 29 December 2014

Speak not of problems,
only of successes

VR's GREATEST culinary skill is improvisation. As on Boxing Day when we dined Ă  deux.

This Christmas British supermarkets competed suicidally over cut-price luxury consumables. I've mentioned champagne at a tenner (the dozen I bought is now down to three). But how about lobsters at £6? Not big, of course. A pair boiled and eviscerated made a disappointingly small pile of meat. VR contemplated the pile for - oh, fully four seconds - then out came the ramekins.

To the lobster were added breadcrumbs, butter, garlic, parsley, a squeeze of lemon and a "tiny" pinch of chilli. Into the ramekins, the grill and then our gastro-intestinal tracts went yet another unnamed fishy calypso.

About the ramekins (pictured). Possibly that isn't their technical name but it'll do, for goodness sake. They were bought in the Brittany town of Perros Guirec where we holidayed with Joe and family in the mid-seventies. They have a sweet elegance and have been used endlessly.

THIS MORNING the woman working one of the Tesco checkouts asked me if it was cold outside. I said it was but given I was her only customer I felt emboldened to go further. The previous midnight I'd put out the garbage and no doubt it was damn frosty. But there was compensation in the pin-point clarity of stars in the night sky. "I've just had a cataract op and things like that are a treat," I said.

She nodded. "I had mine done a year or so ago and it was wonderful. I was fearful but there's less in it than going to the dentist." We smiled at each in the esoteric complicity that has enveloped me since November 19.

11 comments:

Lucy said...

I'm not sure I've ever eaten lobster. I'm a bit shy of sea arthropods in general, I'm afraid to say; crab claws are about my limit at home, when I send Tom outside with them to the Black'n'Decker Workmate with a hammer. I've never ordered spider crab since the time I did in Jugon-les-Lacs when Tom finished his fish soup in five minutes and was wishing he'd brought a book an hour later when I was getting to the end of the teaspoonful of flesh afforded by it. I like langoustines but always end up with a spine down my thumb nail.

But the lobster ramekins (I call them that too, and can't remember their French name) sound delicious.

Stella said...

I wonder if they were Cuban lobsters? In my experience they are the small ones. I hope you popped another bottle of champagne to go with. We have booked a vacation to Grand Cayman, where there is a sea turtle farm. Until last week, when the newspaper featured a fullpage ad for Grand Cayman and their nouvelle turtle cuisine, I thought the baby turtles were raised and benevolently released for a life of frolic in the sea. Now I am pondering how accepting I am of lobster on the plate (or in the ramekin) while I am not at all accepting of turtle on the menu.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: There's a further discouragement: the price of lobsters throughout most of Europe. One of the unexpected pleasures of life in the USA (especially New England) is that they were no more expensive than rump steak. I doubt I had eaten a lobster before then. After our family grew from three to four in Pittsburgh going out became rarer and had to be carefully planned. After one experiment at Klein's restaurant to check that we really liked what you call arthropods we settled into a blissful three-times-a-year routine. Book the babysitter, drive to the centre to Klein's, there to don neck-to-toe plastic aprons, consume two martinis, a bowl of fish soup, and a lobster each while splitting a bottle of chablis. The perfect meal. And then to drive home. I shudder at this retrospectively but I wasn't alone then. Since then I believe the USA has become purer on the subject of drink-driving and I'm glad I escaped misfortune.

In one way or another, notably with crab, I suffered all the fishy problems you list though this year I did Google gutting a lobster and was prepared to do my bit. Instead VR gutted the pair of them herself and I did something that truly repelled her (probably to do with garbage). Feeling virtuous - as she deserved - she then took out the magic ramekins.

Stella: Cuban? Possibly. Certainly not British where there is a minimum limit. Perhaps the honourable thing would be to return to the UK and order you and your spouse a British lobster apiece at close to £50 a pop. You would then be sure they had come straight from the unfettered sea. And now you remind me of that other North American delicacy, snapper turtle soup - gorgeously meaty, available in quite modest restaurants and supplied with a mini-decanter of dry sherry. My mouth salivates and my morals shrivel up and die. I share your doubts. As to the question: can man live by bread alone? I give you the answer: it depends on the wine.

Stella said...

One more lobster note: we have a big lobster fishery on each coast. We can get lobster at the local supermarket for $9.00 / lb. I read recently that most of our lobster (like everything else) gets shipped to China, and the fishers are doing quite well because of it.

Avus said...

Whilst I cannot contemplate molluscian sea food I enjoy all shrimps and crustaceans. Your meal sounds delicious RR, but spoilt, for me, with the addition of garlic. It is absolutely anathema to me. (have I vampire tendencies, I wonder?

Lucas said...

Happy New Year Robbie!
I much enjoy reading your posts and look forward to more in 2015.
I liked "esoteric complicity."

Rouchswalwe said...

Mmm, now I really want to fulfill that dream of going to Maine someday for lobster.

We had a brilliant starlit display last night ... and since I am now allowed to put a wee bit of weight on the leg, I went out to stargaze! Can I also be esoterically complicit?

Roderick Robinson said...

Stella: VR tells me that much of our lobster comes from Canada. But at £4.98/lb you're not exactly deprived. Is Canada, like Big Brother to the south, virtually hypnotised by steak? In novel after novel I read of Americans choosing steak as their favourite meal above all others, talking of "a little place" where they do steak better than anywhere else. What the heck - choose the best cutavailable and apply heat. What's so remarkable about that?

Avus: The garlic thing. Forget vampires, it's merely proof you're English and proud of it. More particularly, that you're not French.

Lucas: I feared it might be a phrase too far, redolent of an excess of sweat and toil.

RW (zS): Guess what I'm eating at this very moment: Gebrannte MacadamianĂ¼sse - bought in Stuttgart when I wasn't looking and re-emerging among my table presents.

Qualifying for being "esoterically complicit" depends on what kind of friends you have. Is there someone with whom you share an obscure preference or is it all beer and skittles? (A phrase new to you?

Avus said...

Approve of your heading pic. RR. You look 10 years younger and less "exhausted"!

Rouchswalwe said...

Gebrannte MacadamianĂ¼sse! Oh my! I've not tried those, but I will crawl on broken glass for the gebrannte Mandeln.

I did have to look up skittles - a game. Hmmm, is it like Kegeln?

An obscure preference with friends? The Iron Boar and I had a lengthy discussion about Robert E. Howard's novel "Red Nails" the other day in public and got plenty of odd looks. Then there's the Water Rat and I, who engage in trying out various home-made bitters in her exotic cocktails. Do those count?

mike M said...

Re snapping turtle soup: Top of the food chain, long lived, and therefore a perfect source of PCB's. I suspect any turtles farmed for restaurants would taste of whatever farm feed they are provided, as I have found farm raised trout to taste like the liver pellets they are fattened on. As for steak, once a taste for grass fed beef is acquired the rest, however premium the cut, tastes like corn.